No Bong Hits 4 Jesus!

The Bong Hits 4 Jesus case has been decided. The Supreme Court found that the student was in the wrong, 5-4.

Quick recap: in 2002, when the Olympic torch was passing through Juneau, Joseph Frederick’s High School class went across the street to watch. Frederick unfurled a sign that said “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS”. The principal confiscated the sign, and later suspended Frederick, for encouraging students to use drugs.

Obviously, easy cases don’t make it to the Supreme Court, but I thought this one was particularly hairy: yes, the banner was silly. But the First Amendment gives you the right to say silly things. Except that Frederick was a student, and students’ First Amendment rights are limited. Except that this wasn’t done on school property. Except that it was done during a school-sponsored event (effectively a field trip across the street). Except that political speech has strong protection (so that a school with a no-drug policy can’t punish you for arguing that marijuana should be legalized). Except that “Bong hits 4 Jesus” isn’t obviously political speech.

Roberts’s majority opinion says that this isn’t about free speech, but really about advocating drug use. So there you have it.

Update: In other legal news, Court finds missing pants not worth $54M.

2 thoughts on “No Bong Hits 4 Jesus!”

  1. I have to say that this particular case was kind of a yawner for me. I would have been surprised if it had gone the other way as a minor testing his right to say ridiculous things to get on TV isn’t exactly the most compelling use of the First Amendment I’ve ever seen. What interests me most is the fact that this case got a lot of press, but very few people were taken aback by the fact that apparently, US citizens don’t have standing to challenge the constitutionality of what George Bush does with their tax money. What’s up with that?


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