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Neutrality is Supposed to Protect Religion Speech, Not Banish It

Government neutrality is supposed to prevent the government from favoring one form of speech over another. It does not give government officials the right to censor or scrub out all religious content from the public square. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

You may often hear me say that the First Amendment requires government agencies to be neutral toward private, religious speech. But, what does that mean?

Some take the position that when the speech of a private person or organization enters a public forum, the government must ensure that all speech within such a forum be neutral, censored and scrubbed of any religious content.

But, that is not neutrality and, when a government does that, it violates the First Amendment.

Neutrality actually means that the government will neither favor, nor disfavor particular viewpoints expressed in speech. It means that the government will not promote a particular point of view, nor censor it. It means that government respects the speech of its citizens, allowing the exchange of ideas through divergent viewpoints, even those viewpoints with which those sitting in government may disagree.

So, if a school district has a flyer distribution program that allows local organizations to distribute information to the parents of its students, it is not required to make sure those flyers present a neutral message. The school board wouldn’t be neutral if it did.

As the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, “speech discussing otherwise permissible subjects cannot be excluded from a limited public forum on the ground that the subject is discussed from a religious viewpoint.”

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Can Students Claim First Amendment Rights Violations If They Use Vulgar Speech?

In 1983, a Bethel High School student proudly nominated his friend for a student government position and used vulgar language while doing so. Learn what the Supreme Court said about regulating student speech and expression by visiting FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

 

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Matthew Fraser was a dedicated friend.

Students Claim First Amendment Rights Violations

Matthew Fraser in front of Bethel High School (Image: Glogster)

In April of 1983, the Bethel High School student took to the stage of a school assembly to proudly nominate his friend for a student government position. As about 600 high school students listened, he . . . well, perhaps the best way to describe his speech is to quote Justice Burger’s description of it. He wrote,

“Fraser referred to his candidate in terms of an elaborate, graphic, and explicit sexual metaphor.”

Well, you can probably spot the problem. Bethel, like a lot of high schools had a policy against the use of lewd, obscene, and profane language.

So, the next morning, the school informed Fraser that he had broken the rules and would be appropriately disciplined.

Fraser didn’t like that. He claimed, in a federal lawsuit, that the policy violated his First Amendment rights.

But, the Supreme Court disagreed.

The court explained that, while students retain First Amendment freedoms at school, school officials may still prevent vulgar and lewd speech—like Fraser’s—that undermines the educational mission of the school.

Bethel School District v. Fraser reminds us that school officials can permit student religious speech and expression without losing the ability to regulate vulgar student speech that undermines the educational mission of the school.

School officials who try to censor student religious speech face an uphill battle.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

 First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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