Archive for the ‘Constitutional Law’ Category

mclawpatrick-mclaw-investigation-book-coverThere is a bizarre case out of Maryland where school officials sent teacher and novelist Patrick McLaw, 23, to an emergency medical evaluation for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. That’s it. A language-arts eight grade teacher at Lane Middle School writes a book about a school shooting and he is put on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, and sent away for evaluation. “The Insurrectionist” happens to be set 900 years in the future but the board couldn’t just wait for the shooting to occur and had to act. What is striking is that all of these steps have been taken and McLaw has been effectively treated as a danger to children but no one has said a thing beyond the novel that is the basis for the actions. Was there something else that raise the danger of a violent act by McLaw? Officials have not been shy about distributing McLaw’s picture, assuring parents that they will protect their children (presumably from McLaw), and generally portraying him as a possible threat to children. Yet, when it comes to the basis for these actions, no one is saying a thing.

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decepticoncar-300x225It appears that a Massachusetts man has been arrested for impersonating a transformer. Barricade (an evil Decepticon) to be exact. The driver had his Maserati “dipped” to resemble the character and was pulled over in Braintree, Massachusetts. His car has the words “Decepticons punish and enslave” painted along the side. It is not clear if the officer was a Decepticon or just a clueless deputy. He faces fines of $1000 or more, probation or, in the most extreme cases, up to five years in jail for impersonating an officer.

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Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 7.20.12 AMIn Riyadh, the Saudi morality police are again in the news. You may recall that when we last left the medieval mod squad they had secured a sentence to flog a woman who insulted them. Now, the religious police was caught on video beating up a British resident after they paid a bill at a women-only cask desk. The religious police was irate at the violation of the strict Sharia-based separation of the sexists and apparently took what they thought was the morality correct approach in beating the man in front of his wife who was wearing a black abaya cloak.

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Mullet-Samuel_storyThere is an interesting case out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit this week on the limits of hate speech prosecutions. The court overturned the hate-crime convictions of 16 men and women in a bizarre series of attacks where Amish victims had their beards cut off. It was personal hatred not religious hatred that prompted this Amish on Amish crime in the view of the court. I had previously criticized the prosecution of the defendants under the hate crime law. Amish bishop Samuel Mullet Sr. (left) was convicted in September of organizing a series of raids in 2011 against religious enemies and disobedient family members. This was an intra-Amish dispute in which the men’s beards were forcibly sheared and women’s hair was cut. He was given 15 years in prison for federal hate crimes in an extreme interoperation of the law by the Obama Administration, which claimed jurisdiction in what appeared a state offense. They did so by building the case around the “Wahl battery-operated hair clippers” used to cut the beards of Amish men and insisted that federal jurisdiction followed the clippers which crossed state borders in their manufacturing and sale. The case is United States v. Miller, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16532, 2014 FED App. 0210P (6th Cir.).

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seal220px-L._Ron_Hubbard_in_1950For those already uncomfortable with the erosion of the separation of church and state in voucher programs and faith-based programs under Presidents Bush and Obama, a new proposal in Flint Michigan is likely to seen the inevitable result of this trend. The Flint city council is considering using police and other public officers to distribute copies of “The Way To Happiness,” a book by Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard.

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screenshot (YouTube)

screenshot (YouTube)

Many people have now watched the touching tribute giving by Billy Crystal to Robin Williams at the Emmy Awards ceremony (I actually detest awards shows and show the clip below after the controversy arose). It appears that there has been a torrent of criticism of one of the clips as racist. We have been discussing the rising limits on speech deemed racist or hateful, including cases brought against comedians (here and here). This controversy highlights the subjectivity over the meaning of such a joke in my view.

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Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 9.04.11 AMThere is an interesting controversy out of Winooski, Vermont over a sign for Sneakers diner. As part of a city program, Sneakers helped beautify its street with flower beds and in return was allowed to put up a sign. The diner featured its favorite dish with a sign that read: “Yield For Sneakers Bacon.” However, a Muslim woman who was also a vegan objected that a sign with the word bacon was offensive to her due to her religion’s ban on eating pork products. The diner responded by immediately taking down the sign and personally apologizing to the woman. That accommodation has led to a backlash from others who feel that the diner is yielding to ultra-sensitive individuals and encouraging such demands from others who may be offended by any number of food references and dishes.

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