In the wake of the Aug. 12 confrontations between protesters and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, some progressives are calling for legal restrictions on the display of the Nazi flag. These arguments are entirely understandable, but they often misapply existing First Amendment law, and they suppress free speech values that progressives — more than anyone else — should want to defend, says a constitutional law expert at Washington University in St. Louis.
Two Missouri legislators have proposed a bill that would require public universities and colleges to revoke scholarships held by student-athletes who refuse to play, or incite, support or participate in a strike. The proposed law violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, says an expert on freedom of speech at Washington University in St. Louis.
The wave of recent student protests on college campuses has revived a long-standing debate about the tension between free speech and policies of diversity and inclusion. That tension is vastly overstated, said free speech expert Greg Magarian.
The popular arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby is seeking a religious exemption from covering certain forms of contraception it would be required to provide under the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act. The case is headed to the Supreme Court, with oral arguments set to begin this spring. “Granting the exemption would shift the cost of accommodating Hobby Lobby’s religious exercise to employees who do not share its beliefs,” argues Elizabeth Sepper, JD, associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Such cost-shifting violates the Establishment Clause.” Sepper is one of several experts who have authored an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court arguing the unconstitutionality of Hobby Lobby’s request.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring on whether prayers before town hall meetings violate the First Amendment clause that prohibits the establishment of religion. John Inazu, a First Amendment expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, highlights one dimension of the litigation often unaddressed by commentators: what he calls the “mistakes of the past, present and future” adopted by proponents of legislative prayer.
A group of some of the country’s top scholars in First Amendment law recently gathered at Washington University in St. Louis to discuss pressing challenges being faced by the first of our Bill of Rights. Three issues rose to the top of the list for Washington University’s first amendment experts: free expression in a digital age; impaired political debate; and weakened rights of groups.
John Inazu, JD, first amendment expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, was invited to provide testimony to the United States Commission on Civil Rights briefing on “Peaceful Coexistence? Reconciling Non-discrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is an important victory for religious liberty says First Amendment expert John Inazu, JD, associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Hosanna-Tabor is a welcome reminder that the Court has not lost sight of ‘the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations.’”
The Occupy protests present a classic First Amendment problem: balancing political dissent against government control of property. “In theory, the government has very limited authority to curb expressive activity in what the law calls ‘public forums,’” says Gregory P. Magarian, JD, constitutional law expert and professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law.
The Supreme Court’s decision March 2 that a military funeral protest by Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church is protected by the First Amendment is a free speech victory, but “there is one note of concern for free speech advocates, which is the opinion’s toleration of ‘free speech zone’ theory,” says Neil Richards, JD, constitutional law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “The opinion notes with approval that the funeral protest took place from a free speech zone from behind a protective fence, and notes at the end that even though Phelps’ speech was protected, it would certainly be amenable to possibly aggressive time, place, and manner restriction,” says Richards, a former law clerk for former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.