Friday, March 7, 2014

American flag banned on T-shirts, but Mexican flag okay

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that students in Morgan Hill, CA, cannot wear emblems of the U.S. flag on their clothing. The court ruling backed up school officials in the San Jose suburb who prevented students from wearing T-shirts with U.S. flags on Cinco de Mayo. Students were, however, allowed to wear shirts depicting the Mexican flag.
According to the panel of judges, despite free-speech rights, the controversial ban on American flags was supposedly needed because the kids wearing the U.S. flag T-shirts were being threatened and harassed by those wearing the Mexican flag on their clothes. So rather than punish the bullies, the other students had their First Amendment rights stripped from them. 
If schools officials really were concerned about potential violence, wouldn't it have been better to ban celebration of Cinco de Mayo - which commemorates the May 5, 1862 victory over French forces by the Mexican Army in the Battle of Puebla -- than to deny American students their constitutional rights?
The federal court disagrees. Citing a 1969 Supreme Court decision purporting to allow government schools to limit free speech if they expect disruptions or interference, the three-judge panel ruled that authorities at Live Oak were justified in banning U.S. flags due to previous threats of violence against students who wore them. “On Cinco de Mayo in 2009, a year before the events relevant to this appeal, there was an altercation on campus between a group of predominantly Caucasian students and a group of Mexican students,” reads the decision upholding the lower-court ruling.
Robert Muiseco-founder of the American Freedom Law Center, one of the organizations supporting the targeted students, said, “It is truly a sad day when government officials are permitted to ban the American flag on a public high school campus for any reason.” 
Outraged parents of the five students were appalled. “This is the United States of America,” the mother of one of the students, Kendall Jones, was quoted as saying by the San Jose Mercury News. “The idea that it's offensive to wear patriotic clothing ... regardless of what day it is, is unconscionable to me.” 
What's of particular concern about this ruling is how similar thinking (e.g., Heckler's veto) is being used in other counties to prevent Christians from displaying Christian clothing, adornments, or having a Bible, because it offends others. What are we supposed to do - add a clause to the First amendment that says something like, "Freedom of expression shall never be abridged because of threats of violence or disorder against it. Instead, only those who commit violence will be prosecuted"?
Does anyone wonder why our country is going to hell in a handbag? 

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