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Free Speech: "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Case Heading to Supreme Court Next Month, with Ken Starr Supporting One Side and SSDP Another

In a case that could determine whether high school students have the right to enunciate positions on drug policy that are at odds with school district anti-drug policies, the US Supreme Court will soon hear Frederick v. Morse -- popularly known as "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" -- pitting a former high school student from Alaska against his principal and the school board, which punished him for holding up a banner with that phrase outside school property.
Ken Starr wants to discourage any potential ''Bong Hits 4 Jesus'' imitators.
Nearly five years ago, Joseph Frederick, a student at Douglas High School in Juneau, Alaska, displayed his "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner after students were released from school to see a parade bearing the Olympic torch passing through town. Frederick was suspended for 10 days by the school principal, who cited school anti-drug policies. He appealed to the district school board, which upheld his suspension, but limited it to the eight days of school he had missed by that time.

Frederick then sued the principal and the school, claiming violations of his state and federal constitutional rights to free speech. Frederick lost in federal district court, but the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him in a 2006 ruling, holding that because the banner-waving did not occur during a school-sanctioned event, the principal and the school district had violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

With the assistance of former Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who is working pro bono, the school district appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case in December. Oral arguments are set for March 19. The school district has argued that allowing Frederick to express himself by referencing drug paraphernalia and drug use could interfere with its effort to promote a consistent anti-drug policy.

The campus-based organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), whose chapters are mainly located at colleges but which has a few at high schools, saw a potential impact of the case on students' ability to challenge drug war dogma, and decided to intervene with an amicus curie brief to the high court. According to the SSDP amicus brief, "Our nation's drug policies directly and intimately affect students' daily lives. Whether it be random drug testing for student athletes or federal financial aid conditioned on lack of any drug conviction, young people are significantly affected in the positions as students by drug-related policies. Students thus have a vested interest in understanding and discussing the underlying issues that guide and affect this country's drug policies. The First Amendment guarantees that their voice on these issues be protected."

"This case focuses on a student who held up an absurd banner, but the school district's argument – if adopted by the Court – would silence free speech in public schools about important topics like student drug testing, the failures of DARE, or medical marijuana," said Kris Krane, SSDP's executive director. "The War on Drugs impacts young people every single day. Students must retain their First Amendment right to debate drug policies that directly affect them," he added.

In a press release last week, American Center for Law and Justice chief counsel Jay Sekulow, called Frederick v. Morse "an extremely poor test case that should not even be considered by the Supreme Court" and called on the court to reverse its decision to hear it.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Mr Starr

This is not a serious comment, and I respect the seriousness of the issue, but when I think of Ken Starr, two main things come to mind: 1) Anti blow job. 2) Anti bong hit.
He is against two of my most favorite things. I think that if there were more blow jobs and bong hits, there would be less war. I'm pretty sure of this, in fact. What next? Anti chocolate? Anti coffee? Anti music? Please Mr Starr...retire, or at least get a life!

Bring Back the BILL OF RIGHTS

Seriously, it is America's only hope for a future.

"Bong Hits for Jesus" Case

It will be interesting to see which members on the Supreme Court will find that the Plaintiff was clearly within his First Admendment rights in this case. However, I already have my suspicions as to which of the new justices will not uphold the First Admendment Rights of Mr. Frederick and he is Samuel Alito.

I watched the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Alito and it was clear that Alito was trying to model his temperment after the composed and well versed perfrormance of John G. Roberts, whom had been confirmed a few months earlier for Chief Justice.

The Senate Judicairy Commitee Democrats had been trying to paint Judge Alito as Federal Judge that sides with the government at all times in all cases. Alito calmly and consistently denied the accusation he always sidded with the government until a drug case in which the police raided a home and strip-searched a twelve year-old girl was brough up by a Democratic Senator.

In this case, was the girls father was a suspected "dealer." No drugs were found after several hours of ransacking the home and finaly the man's young daughter was strip-searched and no drugs were found on or "in" her either. Judge Alito, in thankfuly, a minority opinion, found that this case DID NOT represent an ureasonable abuse of police power.

As the Democratic Senators persisted in questioning Judge Alito's logic in finding that traumatizing a twelve year-old girl constituted acceptable police practices, Alito was unyielding in supporting his finding. Eventually, however, he snapped: "They [police] were looking for Drugs!" Alito cried.

Alito was Roberts no more; his emotions had shown and his lack of rationality had been exposed.

To which I say (but no Democrat Senator dared say in response to Alito's meltdown):

That is right Judge Alito, "They were looking for drugs!" NOT a suitecase nuke! And if whatever drugs might have been at the property could be stashed in the body cavities of a twelve year-old girl, then obviously the suspected dealer is not Pablo Escobar! Give it a rest, Judge Alito, show some reason.

I am not hopfull for Mr. Frederick's case, especially with this "Bushized" Supreme Court. Besides, ALL other Admendment protections have been thrown out in the name of the "War on Drugs" and it looks like the First Admendment will now be the last and final one to fall.

William T. Patton, Jr.
Silver Spring, MD
[email protected]

The Deck is Stacked Against It

We have 5 "conservative" (who are actually Authoritarian, and NOT conservative) Supreme Court justices...I'm gonna guess it's down with bong hits, up with censorship...we are so far off course it's almost without remedy.

However, when Jesus returns, I hope to have a bowl loaded so that I might offer him the green hit. Amen...and amen.

1st amendment

Re: Deck is stacked: Yeah, what would Jesus say about alcohol vs. marijuana? He would probably praise the herbal properties of cannabis and definitely trash the over the top hypocrisy of killer alcohol users lording it over cannabis users. Jesus hated hypocrisy, he would not be amused by alcohol supremacists.

The school doesn't like their anti-drug policy interfered with. But that's the 1st Amendment for you. It's not supposed to be convenient for the authorities. This banner ain't like crying fire in a crowded theater, we don't need to carve out an exception to the 1st amendment because some people are uptight about the effects of free speech. It's also not like the recent demonstrations at funerals, which have been so cruel as to make distance restrictions on such demonstrations reasonable.

Bong Hits for Jesus

The strange thing is there is a lot of evidence that Jesus liked cannabis, just google "jesus cannabis" and see what comes up!

ACLU is High

Can a student display a banner inconsistent with the District's mission. That's the question here. What if Frederick held up a sign that said "kill the blacks" or "Bong Hits for the Prophet Muhaamad" and included a cartoon drawing? Is that ok? What if 4th grader did this during a school assembly? Is that ok?

If Frederick wanted to have a discussion about drug policy, he could certainly have brought it up during his social studies class. But standing across the street from the school with other students during a school sanctioned event (think "field trip") is not an ok time to hold up his banner.

If he wanted to go down the street and do it in front of City Hall, he would be fine and people would just think he was a dumbass exercising his free speech.

He and his lawyers should quit wasting the school's time and money. Take your lumps and move on young man.

Did you even read the post

Did you even read the post moron? He was NOT at a school function at all, thats why the courts ruled for him in the 9th circuit. He held up his poster on a public street merely in view of the school, and not durring a sanctioned event. Jesus, learn to comprehend what you read.

"It's hard to make a man understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Jay Sekulow??

"In a press release last week, American Center for Law and Justice chief counsel Jay Sekulow, called Frederick v. Morse "an extremely poor test case that should not even be considered by the Supreme Court" and called on the court to reverse its decision to hear it."

For more on Jak Sekulow, see this....

It's nice to see the potheads finally getting in bed with the crazy christians....

borden's picture

what potheads?

Whenever I see someone use the term "potheads" in a forum like this I presume that it is likely to be someone with an agenda. For the record, I added that quote to the article after seeing it on Google News -- and I have never used marijuana or any other illegal drug in my life, so I don't think I can reasonably be called a pothead.

Regardless, quoting people in news article is not tantamount to "getting in bed" with them. But if a major Christian organization is ready to support our cause, even if only at the margins, I don't see why we wouldn't be glad for that.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

re:ACLU is high

to respond to one point at a time: kill the blacks, obviously not OK, bong hits for Mo, OK but he should he aware of the extreme feeling some Muslim people have about that, 4th grader doing it in on school property (assembly) obviously not OK, 4th grader advocating marijuana use off school property, probably not ok either but if they were just protesting prohibition that would be different. Big difference between how high school and grade school students should be treated.

What makes you so so sure he could bring it up in his social studies class snd have it discussed? I hope drug policy can be debated in high school social studies classes, but I've never heard about it happening so I wonder. Perhaps a high school teacher could enlighten on this point

I think it is quite obvious

I think it is quite obvious this an issue of censorship and violation of rights. However, i think it's important to understand that anyone who can not see this, doesn't think about their or anyone elses rights very often.

It seems to me this was a demonstation of the school to make an example of a young man who obviously smokes pot. Now they don't have to like it, but they do have to respect it. I've seen christians protesting outside my very highschool with signs saying "God hate's fags" and all that jargon. And i certainly didn't see any federal case out of that.

I also think, that becuase this is a pot smoking teenager. that ANYONE sided against drug use, is NOT going to take him or his case seriously. People who smoke are generaly catagorized as "sub-citizen". We lose instant credibility and are thus far "painted red" so to speak. I've encountered many situations where people who knew and trusted me, suddenly changed their opinions after discovering i consume the ganja.

Parents don't have to like it, schools don't have to like it, but if i feel like going out in to the world and expressing myself and someone tells me i can't, fuck them. It's not like the kid was running down the school halls throwing joints at students and saying smoke up bitches. He was wearing a fucking T-shirt.

So i'm sorry to say, but if u truely believe this kid deserved a 10 day suspension over a little pot t-shirt, maybe YOU are the ones who need to do a little growing up. People get to easily offended these days. Especialy when it comes to drugs. We are forced to live as an underground culture lurking in the shadows for fear of prejudice.

If u don't like my lifestyle fine, if u don't like how i dress ok, if u hate my freaking guts good for you, but when u start making it my buisness or anyone elses u've crossed the line. People have a right to express themselves and as long as their act of self expression is not going to hurt anyone...i don't think anyone has the right to suppress that.

What do they think. a bunch of innocent highschoolers are gunna see that kids shirt and start smoking pot all the sudden. The drug war clearly makes it evident that even kids in gradeschool already have learned about drug use...and not from DARE. So the pot smokers wuld just agree with the kid and the ones who don't wuld just think oh they are dumb druggies, however, with an exception of certain individuals who choose not to do drugs, but do not lose respect for people who make "their" choice to use.

As i said before, this kid wasn't walking the halls of his highschool with a t-shirt that says smoke pot while handing out joints. He was outside of school after hours and wanted to express himself. Is that what we are teaching in school today? That if you express yourself "the wrong way". you are to be punished. Well if that's your view...good luck with that.

peace to everyone and the cause...if we all do our part we can do great things!

Bong Hits for Jeasus! Acid for God!

Join the League for Spiritual Discovery!


If you've read more about this, its obvious that the kid is a huge drama queen and his stunt was a very melodramatic response to a previous "violation" of his rights by the school. Though I think the sign is hilarious, I think the kid is kind of a prick; pushing buttons just to push buttons rubs me the wrong way. Still, the fact remains: improper venue or not, drama queen or no, he was off school property and they had no right to tear his sign down. Annoying kids have the right to free speech as much as the most eloquent among us. If the 1st amendment doesn't protect the speech of disenfranchised youth, who are among the most powerless members of our society, then things are SERIOUSLY wrong with this country. A society's strength is measured by the amount of diversity and dissidence it can bear, not the unity it can enforce.

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