Monday, November 15, 2010

Two applications of the First Amendment

Two stories caught my eye  in relation to the First Amendment.  The first was about Amazon's pulling The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure by Phillip Greaves.   The book seems to have been uniformly condemned but some sources have commented that by pulling the book that Amazon somehow violated the author's First Amendment rights.  Nonsense.   Amazon is a private company.  The First Amendment protects the right of Mr. Greaves to publish all sorts of offensive stuff so long as he does not directly violate laws.  So for example, he could publish a book like this, even though the content is offensive, but he could be prevented from publishing the same book with photos of pedophiles in action.   But Amazon, as a business is under no obligation to carry any product.   I assume that there are millions of books that Amazon does not sell - based on their marketing decisions.   The First Amendment has nothing to say about Amazon's decision on what to sell.

In May of 2010 students in one California district were banned from wearing a flag shirt to their school.  This month one kid (Cody Allecia) who rode his bike to school in the Central Valley was told by the Superintendent to pack the flag away.   The Superintendent of Denair USD said that the flag would somehow be disruptive.  Shame on the Superintendent - who does not seem to have read the First Amendment (he seems to have gotten his undergraduate degree in Poultry from CSUSLO).   To his credit (or whatever) the Superintendent later allowed the student to fly his flag and said he will address the issue at the School Board's November 18  meeting.   In this case the ultimate right of a student to engage in political speech (protected by the First Amendment) was immediately limited but then seemingly restored.

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