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.