Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Stepping in the Glee Gum

I was pretty amused when I read that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case of Morse v Frederick, an appeal that involved a high school kid and a Bong Hits 4 Jesus banner. What fun! What a lending of deliberative powers to high school high jinks!

Now I'm not so sure. Chief Justice John Roberts seems to be steering the discussion in the direction of an overturn of Tinker v Des Moines.

The latter is a 1969 decision used as precedent in cases involving student expression. The Court upheld the rights of students who were protesting the Viet Nam war by wearing black armbands to school. Seems awfully tame in this day and age, doesn't it?

Frederick, the high school kid in the current case, was suspended for 12 days for unfurling a Bong Hits 4 Jesus banner during a parade of the Olympic torch through town, which the kids were allowed to leave class and see. Frederick, little rascal that he was and probably is, wasn't in school that day, probably hard at work on his magnum opus at home. He did arrive in time for its debut along the parade route.

The case is now before the court, with Kenneth Starr arguing for the school district. Chief Justice John Roberts used to work for Starr, back in the days before his current dizzying status. Clearly, it helps to have connections when it comes to getting a case heard.

It does seem that Roberts, whose questions show him leaning in the direction of his old boss and the school district, may have had a few bong hits himself. He keeps asking questions that have less to do with the case and more that might bear upon Tinker.

"Why is it that the classroom ought to be a forum for political debate simply because the students want to put that on their agenda?" Roberts asked Starr. Later on, he responded negatively to the idea that Tinker had given students a "baseline of political speech." "Presumably, the teacher's agenda is a little bit different and includes things like teaching Shakespeare or the Pythagorean theorem. Just because political speech is on the student's agenda, I'm not sure that it makes sense to read Tinker so broadly as to include protection of that speech."

Um. I'd like a hit of that, John Roberts, if you don't mind. But you do seem to be straying from the case at hand. This is a political debate?! I can see an earnest young debate team captain presenting the topic: Resolved: that bong hits should be extended to Jesus. This prank took place outside the classroom. Even if it had happened during a field trip (the closest thing to an equivalent), the lad was counted absent that day. The curriculum, unless you are a frustrated upholder of the need for strict adherence to spelling principles, is beyond the pale of this unfurling.

Supreme Court justices by practice must massage the precedents. What makes me nervous is that Roberts is trying to dismantle the political discourse of students through this case. Just in time to shush the kids about the wars the administration expects them to fight as it expands its hegemaniacal plans for battle.

Interestingly, Pat Robertson and others who might have been expected to express outrage over this case have been on the side of the kids. They see shushing Jesus comments as an obstacle to the eventual restoration of school prayer. Sam Alito is right there with him, as are other evangelicals. Talk about strangers in the sack!

This should remind us all of a sacred obligation: not to turn teenage shenanigans into a federal case.

Roberts is such a friggin tool. BushCO is getting their money's worth out of that asshat.
There's a lot of wisdom in your conclusion. Having raised 3 kids, it was always clear to me that ones needs to pick one's battles carefully. Things that are not life-altering (haircuts, piercings, t-shirt slogans, banners) clearly are not worth battling over on a big scale. What do they think they're teaching these young people (oh, I know, "morality"). How ridiculous that so much time and energy is wasted on something so stupid as this. The 'Supreme' Court - puhleeeeeeze.......

Love your blog!!!
Great analysis Lulu. Our Supreme Court is acting just like I thought they would act. How can Roberts not see that this was not a school activity and how the hell can he try to reverse the freedom of speech protections for students who want to protest a war by wearing armbands like the original case? I am really sad and disgusted by this.
The Supremes will rule in favor of the kid. They may hate the taste of it, but it will clear the way for the little religious robots in schools to shove Jesus down everyone's throats.
And to complete the circle, the rest of the kids will need a few bong hits after a big load of Jesus.
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