Thursday, November 26, 2009

ACLU: Students Can Wear Shirts That Read "Islam is of the Devil" (Updated)

Wow: would you ever have expected to see the ACLU take a stand for free speech that demonizes Islam?
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a north Florida school district, claiming that the Alachua County School District violated students' rights by not allowing them to wear T-shirts with an anti-Islamic message.

The civil rights organization says that while it doesn't agree with the "Islam is of the Devil" message printed on T-shirts distributed by the Dove World Outreach Center, it does support the students' constitutional right to freedom of speech.

A school dress code prohibits clothing that school officials conclude would "disrupt the learning process" or cause other students to be "offended or distracted." The students were sent home for violation of the code after declining to change out of the shirts.

The church was the target of protests after it posted a sign with the same message on its property in July.

In a letter to the ACLU the school board's law firm said that "a school may regulate a student's free speech rights if the exercise of those rights materially and substantially interferes with maintaining appropriate discipline at school, or if the conduct impinges on the rights of other students."
Stranger is the fact that the school policy is correct and even by the ACLU's own defense, what the school did appears completely justified.

If I were a cynic, I would be inclined to agree with the comment left by Photoonist, who linked to this article on Lucianne.com:
Of course the ACLU doesn't support the message. Their real concern is that if this one is stopped then anti-Christian messages will be blocked as well.
By the way, is it only coincidence that it was a Florida school where they had Kick A Jew Day?

UPDATE: I noticed that Blazing Cat Fur linked to this post. In the comments, Xanthippa's Chamberpot writes:

Well - this issue has been decided by the US supreme court, back in the 60's in he [sic] 'Tinker' trial (it involved an anti-Vietnam protest) [see here DA].

A public school does not have the right to limit a student's political or other speech on school property, as the US supreme court ruled this to be an unreasonable limitation on the student's First Amendment rights.

The only 'word/messages' the school board may censor AND against which it is permitted to have a policy are profanity or sexually explicit speech/material and anything that promotes the use of illegal drugs.

Any schoolboard policy which attempts to limit a student's freedom of expression beyond these two (sex/profanity, promoting drugs) is unconstitutional - at least, in the US.

(I looked it up recently, when a high school near Salem, MA, banned the word 'meep' from its property: both spoken and written/worn, because students were saying it 'at' a teacher....) [see here and here DA]
Based on this, what I concluded about the ACLU's defense is wrong, in that the shirts--while potentially a distraction--would not "materially and substantially" interfere with the running of the school.

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