A prankster who held up a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” sign on the sidewalk across from his Alaska high school made it to the Supreme Court. On Slate, Dahlia Lithwick reports on oral arguments.
The Bush administration — with former special prosecutor Ken Starr in the lead — argued the principal had the right to suspend the student for contradicting the school’s anti-drug message. Students had been let out of school to watch the Olympic torch relay go past.
Souter asks whether a simple sign reading “Change the Marijuana Laws” would also be “disruptive.” Starr says that interpreting the meaning of the sign must be left to the “frontline message interpreter,” in this case, the principal. Then Starr says schools are charged with inculcating “habits and manners of civility” and “values of citizenship.” Yes, sir. In the first six minutes of oral argument Starr has posited, without irony, a world in which students may not peaceably advocate for changes in the law, because they must be inculcated with the values of good citizenship.
On the other side, evangelicals “sit, improbably, at the stoners’ table in the cafeteria today,” writes Lithwick. “The targets of most school suppression of politically incorrect speech are religious students sporting pro-Jesus or anti-gay T-shirts.”
The Ninth Circuit sided with the student, notes Debra Saunders.
Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote, “All sorts of missions are undermined by legitimate and protected speech — a school’s anti-gun mission would be undermined by a student passing around copies of John R. Lott’s book, ‘More Guns, Less Crime’; a school’s anti-alcohol mission would be undermined by a student e-mailing links to a medical study showing less heart disease among moderate drinkers than teetotalers.”
The Supremes appeared to be very dubious of the “mission” argument, especially since the student wasn’t in a classroom or even in school.
Ann Althouse, who already longs for the day when “Bong hits 4 Jesus” appears in her law textbooks, has more.