Free-speech advocates are urging the Supreme Court to step in and overturn a Ninth Circuit Court decision that could effectively end students’ free speech if someone else threatens violence because of it.
The whole controversy began about five years ago when officials at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California, banned students from wearing T-shirts with the American flag and other expressions of patriotism during Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican celebration of the Battle of Puebla, because of fears that Mexican students would get violent.
The fear was not unfounded as Mexican students had caused problems in previous years. The lawsuit also points out that the school officials who told students to remove their flag shirts or turn them inside out were themselves Mexican-American.
The case is such a flagrant violation of free speech rights that it never should have seen the inside of a courtroom.
Unfortunately, the docket it landed on was the Ninth Circuit’s, known far and wide as the Ninth Circus. The Ninth Circus naturally upheld what other courts have called in similar circumstances a “Heckler’s veto.”
The latest round of filings in the case was in response to the school district’s effort to have the case dismissed.
In his dissenting opinion on the Ninth Circus’ decision, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain said the court ruling would lead to “mob rule.”
“The next case might be a student wearing a shirt bearing the image of Che Guevara, or Martin Luther King Jr. or Pope Francis,” O’Scannlain wrote. “It might be a student wearing a President Obama ‘Hope’ shirt, or a shirt exclaiming ‘Stand with Rand!’ It might be a shirt proclaiming the shahada, or a shirt accounting “Christ is risen!’ It might be any viewpoint imaginable, but whatever it is, it will be vulnerable to the rule of the mob. The demands of bullies will become school policy.”
In other words, it’s exactly the sort of policy liberals love to wield until it’s used against them. Naturally, the Ninth Circus couldn’t pass that up.
Sorry, did that sound cynical? If this policy is upheld, that sort of talk will be put to a quick end.
John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute which is helping parents who sued the school district, said, “There are all kinds of labels being put on so-called ‘unacceptable’ speech today, from calling it politically incorrect and hate speech to offensive and dangerous speech, but the real message being conveyed is that Americans don’t have a right to express themselves if what they are saying is unpopular or in any way controversial.”
And apparently nothing is more controversial than wearing a U.S. flag T-shirt in California during a Mexican holiday.
The case is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District; it is pending before the Supreme Court.