26 June 2007

Bong Hits 4 SCOTUS? (UPDATED!)

In yet another 5-4 decision, SCOTUS has ruled against Alaskan high school tippler Joseph Frederick for his "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign. Here's a good review of the case.

As I understand it, the court ruled that his sign constituted a promotion for illegal substances and therefore did not qualify as free speech.

Let's be honest here. This case had nothing to do with free speech, drugs, or school authority over student behavior. This case was about the word "Jesus". Would there have been a case if the the word "Jesus" was replaced with, say, "Peace", "Buddha", or "Jerry Garcia"?

And why isn't it salient that Frederick was (a) not on school grounds, and (b) not at a school event? Can school principals suspend students for nutty conduct anywhere around town?

And I can't help but wonder how Kenneth Starr fits into all this. He represented the school principal, who was the defendant. Did the principal choose Starr? Did she pay his fee? If not, who did?

Legal experts say that this case is not that significant because the circumstances are so unique. They say cases about what students can write in the school newspapers and what they can say in assembly are more significant.

But looking beyond the trees of legality to see the forest of general society, isn't this case really about a young person's right to act like a damn fool? Isn't that what SCOTUS ruled against? Does anyone really think that, ten years from now, Frederick will still be standing around holding up silly banners?

No, that is something that immature adolescents do. When Frederick grows up he'll be a working stiff paying his bills and learning how to manage his finances. Isn't that what happened to the rest of us?

SCOTUS did not make a legal decision in Morse v. Frederick. They made a cultural decision, one that set parameters for what can be said within the framework of a Christian nation.

Insignificant? It's anything but.

UPDATE: According to the NYTimes, this WAS a school sponsored function. This basically changes everything. It's true Frederick was just being an idiot, but the principal was justified in taking action. The fact that Frederick decided to literally make a federal case out of it reinforces the notion that he's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. The principal really had no choice but to take the case further with appeals. Frederick dug his own grave and now he has to lie in it.

And he did pay the price; his actions led to his father losing his job (which is itself another case now) and Frederick dropped out of college. On the plus side, he has plenty of time to smoke pot and think about going to law school for Jesus.

1 comment:

Wes said...

Y'know, I think Mr. Frederick was 18 at the time too.

Off school grounds, legal adult, and he still lost.

This does not bode well for American jurisprudence.