The drug war – another assault on reason

I’m deeply saddened by the results of the most recent Supreme Court decision on the free speech rights of students. The so-called “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case was decided in favor of the school.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Supreme Court ruled against a former high school student Monday in the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner case — a split decision that limits students’ free speech rights.

Joseph Frederick was 18 when he unveiled the 14-foot paper sign on a public sidewalk outside his Juneau, Alaska, high school in 2002.

Principal Deborah Morse confiscated it and suspended Frederick. He sued, taking his case all the way to the nation’s highest court.

The justices ruled 6-3 that Frederick’s free speech rights were not violated by his suspension over what the majority’s written opinion called a “sophomoric” banner. (Watch the banner unfurl and launch a legal battle Video)

“It was reasonable for (the principal) to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use– and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s majority.

You hear that? Free speech is OK until it promotes something the government doesn’t like. For instance, drug use. When the hell did we become so obsessed over illegal drug use, even pot (for Jesus), as advocated in this sign that students can’t legally speak about it? Off school grounds no less? This is a bizarre case. Even though student free speech tends to be limited relative to political speech outside the school, the fact that he had the banner across the street from the school, to me at least, should have protected him from any disciplinary action.

I think Stevens summarizes just how I feel though in his dissent:

Roberts was supported by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito. Breyer noted separately he would give Morse qualified immunity from the lawsuit, but did not sign onto the majority’s broader free speech limits on students.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said, “This case began with a silly nonsensical banner, (and) ends with the court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message.”

He was backed by Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This leads me to another point, and a topic I think we’ll discuss in the future here at denialism blog. And that is the anti-drug science that comes out of funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA. While not truly junk science per se, it tends to always be misinterpreted and twisted to present a uniformly anti-drug message. I consider this the political abuse of science by the government, and hope to write about it when it comes up in the future.


5 responses to “The drug war – another assault on reason”

  1. While not strictly under the heading of denialism, I think it’s fair to say that whenever the phrase ‘send a message’ is used, your bullshit detector should go off. All the more so if the message is ‘powerful’.

  2. Why must we constantly be told what to do by people who are drug abusers? A lot of people in congress and even our own president abuse drugs, or have abused drugs. Not just the legal ones like alcohol, but the illegal ones too. Then to complete this ultimate irony, the law makers (who are also drug abusers) punish people for using drugs that they themselves have used before. WTF

    Now I’m depressed and angry, guess I’ll go get high and watch that coke head GW lecture me on self respect.

  3. Ribozyme

    Yep, this stupid war on drugs has to be spoken against. How about that as the new progressive/skeptical/scientific target? (It seems to me that people are already coming to their senses abouth GW Bush’s authority abuse and the sillines of Christianity and other religions, thanks to people that have been very outspoken about those matters). At the risk of sounding paranoid, it would seem to me that the War on Drugs is the result of an unholy alliance. It’s better for the drug cartels that their products remain forbidden, so they can sell them at ridiculously high prices and without needing to guarantee the quality. See what happened when alcohol was forbidden. The mafia made a great fortune with it and weren’t very happy when it became legal again. And we don’t see the authorities actually controlling the entrance of drugs to the USA or their commercialization, even though the country has the most stringent and paranoid surveillance, customs and inspection measures it ever has had. Draw your own conclusions…

  4. Now what happens if some kid wants to pick decriminalizing marijuana as a debate topic in a public speaking class?

    If children decide to wear black armbands to school to protest the Morse v. Frederick decision, would that be considered a pro-drug message?

    Morse v. Frederick is some the bullshitiest work of the court since Korematsu v. U.S.

  5. You mean other than Hein v. FFRF?

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