free speech

Law
2:26 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

State rejects “WAR SUX” license plate, Ann Arbor man sues

Personalized license plates on the wall of Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo.
anthonylibrarian Creative Commons

Another Michigan man who was denied a personalized license plate the state says could be considered “offensive to good taste and decency” is suing on free speech grounds.

The American Civil Liberties Union is already suing the Secretary of State over a similar case in federal court in Grand Rapids.

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Opinion
8:27 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Is ranting in university classrooms free speech?

Lessenberry essay for 9/6/13

One of this week’s more sensational stories involved a Michigan State University professor who was removed from teaching after delivering an inflammatory rant to a large lecture classroom, remarks somebody videotaped.

When the video surfaced, Republicans went ballistic. Many demanded that William Penn, a tenured professor of creative writing, be fired. Michigan State officials didn’t do that, and probably couldn’t. Originally, the whole point of tenure was to prevent someone from being fired for unpopular opinions.

However, State did yank Penn out of the classroom. He will continue to be paid, and presumably expected to continue his research and committee work, but someone else will teach his courses. The question is, how should we feel about this?

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Law
5:10 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

West Michigan cattle farmer can keep his signs critical of socialism, President Obama

Vernon Verduin (middle) talks about his case after a judge's ruling Thursday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

On Thursday a Kent County district court judge ruled in favor of a farmer with two huge political signs on his property. The signs are critical of socialism and President Obama.

Gaines Township argued what the signs say is not at issue, just the size of them. Under local zoning laws, people can have commercial signs up to 32 square feet, political signs up to 20 square feet.

The township issued Vernon Verduin a citation, since his signs are much larger than 20 square feet. One can see the signs from a nearby freeway.

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Law
9:19 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Legal battle over free speech brewing on a West Michigan cattle farm

Vernon Verduin's signs still sit in the cow pasture, near M-6 in Gaines Township.
Julia Henshaw ACLU

“I can summarize it in common language; what’s more important, egg McMuffins or political speech?”  attorney Howard Van Den Heuvel said.

His client, cattle farmer Vernon Verduin, posted two huge signs critical of President Obama and socialism back in September. One of the signs reads “Marxism/Socialism=Poverty & Hunger,” the other “Obama’s ‘mission accomplished’ 8% unemployment 16 trillion debt.”

Van Den Heuvel says the township cited Verduin after two anonymous complaints. Gaines Township ordinance has a 20-square-foot limit on the size of “political signs” and a 32-square-foot limit on “commercial signs.”

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Law
7:08 am
Sat February 23, 2013

Group wants Michigan judge's Facebook ruling overturned

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - A consumer advocacy group objects to a judge ordering a Detroit area man to remove comments critical of a restaurant class-action lawsuit on his Facebook page.

Public Citizen said Friday that Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald's ruling violates the First Amendment. The group filed a motion to have the injunction removed.

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Politics & Government
3:54 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

"Free speech is alive again at Michigan bars and restaurants"

Michigan bar owners will be allowed to display political signs in their taverns.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission today agreed to stop enforcing a 1954 rule which barred businesses with liquor licenses from posting signs endorsing political candidates.

The owners of Ann Arbor's Aut Bar filed suit against the rule last week, after they were told they had to take down signs for Democratic candidates.

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Law
2:47 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Michigan Supreme Court rules MSU ordinance violates free speech

MSU Library
user Jeffness Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a Michigan State University ordinance is unconstitutional today.

Back in 2008, MSU law student Jared Rapp received a parking ticket on campus. Rapp reportedly yelled at the parking attendant, took his photo and demanded his name. 

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Politics
9:08 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Lawmaker sues city, school officials alleging free speech violations

State Representative Dave Agema (R-Grandville) is suing officials with the City of Allegan, Allegan Public Schools, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and People for the American Way for allegedly violating his rights to free speech and assembly.

The case stems from an event scheduled at Allegan High School in late January 2012. The evening's guest was billed as a former Muslim terrorist who converted to Christianity.

Police shut the event down; citing safety concerns. But Agema says there were no safety threats.

A city attorney declined to comment for the story. But said this in a written statement:

“This lawsuit is disappointing in many ways.  It is based on conjecture, logical fallacies, and, more disappointingly, factual inaccuracies.  The plaintiffs did not even spell one of the defendants’ names correctly.  It is disappointing that the lawsuit wrongly imputes motives to the police officers.”

The lawsuit names the city manager, police chief and other officers in their official capacities and as individuals. 

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Crime
6:12 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

Michigan Supreme Court hears arguments in MSU Free Speech case

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case that questions the constitutionality of a Michigan State University ordinance.  

In 2008,  MSU law student Jared Rapp received a parking ticket on campus.  Rapp reportedly yelled at the parking attendant, took his photo and demanded his name. 

The question arises as to whether MSU’s ordinance prohibiting anyone from disrupting a university employee’s official business is too broad, and whether it infringed upon Rapp’s right of free speech. 

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Politics
10:07 pm
Thu October 6, 2011

Terry Jones appeal argued in Michigan court

Terry Jones
AP

The free speech case of a controversial Florida Pastor best known for burning the Quran has started in Wayne County

A jury found Terry Jones guilty of breaching the peace in April. Dearborn police arrested him before he could proceed with an anti-Islamic protest outside the country’s largest mosque on Good Friday.

Jones wants that decision reversed. He also wants the court to lift an ongoing injunction that bars him from protesting in that spot.

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Corrections
7:17 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Muskegon County Jail’s ‘post-card-only’ policy attracting protests

Post-card-sized protest sign aims to demonstrate limitations.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In February, new rules were adopted that prohibit inmates from sending or receiving letters. Inmates can receive or send postcards only. Legal documents are exempt.

Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler cites security reasons for changing the policy earlier this year. He says people send drugs, razor blades, and other contraband inside letters to inmates.

“I can’t give you a specific number of times that we’ve dealt with that, but my perspective as sheriff you know in a facility that needs to be as secure as possible, one is too many.”

About 20 protestors gathered in front of the Muskegon Count Jail today to rally against the policy.

Faith Groesback was among them.

“What do you have to do to ensure that contraband doesn’t come in through a letter? You run it through a metal detector, you have a dog sniff it, you have somebody open it and shake it; it’s not that complicated.”

She argues the policy violates inmates and their loved ones’ privacy and freedom of speech.

“If you’ve ever been, had a relationship of any kind with somebody in that situation, you’d understand how vitally important those letters are and what they mean to them.”

Mal Williams, also of Muskegon, found out about the policy from a friend of his that’s inside the jail just yards away from him.

“Just think what we would’ve lost if we had not let Dr. King write letter when he was in Birmingham Jail. There’s a lot of issues involved here. Its starts off with a letter and then the next thing you know you’re losing something else.”

Sheriff Roesler says inmates’ speech is not stifled because they can send as many postcards as they want.

“Courts have recognized that certain rights are restricted when you come into jail or prison and in the interest of the security of the institution, sometimes we do have to restrict those rights.”

About a half a dozen other county jails in Michigan have similar post-card-only policies.

A county in Colorado reversed its post-card-only policy late last year after the ACLU threatened legal action.

The ACLU of Michigan says they have been looking into 'post-card-only' policies in the state.

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Offbeat
2:06 pm
Mon March 28, 2011

Flying Dog sues state Liquor Control Commission over free speech

Not sold in Michigan. The label on Flying Dog's 20th Anniversary beer. Artwork by Ralph Steadman
flyingdogales.com

Flying Dog Brewery, a Maryland-based beer maker, is suing Michigan's Liquor Control Commission for violating its free speech rights.

The Brewery applied for a license to sell its 20th anniversary commemorative beer "Raging Bitch" in 2009. The beer's label included the following text:

Two inflammatory words... one wild drink. Nectar imprisoned in a bottle. Let it out. It is cruel to keep a wild animal locked up. Uncap it. Release it....stand back!! Wallow in its golden glow in a glass beneath a white foaming head. Remember, enjoying a RAGING BITCH, unleashed, untamed, unbridled- and in heat- is pure GONZO!! It has taken 20 years to get from there to here. Enjoy!

According to Business Wire, the Michigan Liquor Commission barred the sale of the beer claiming the "beer's label — designed by renowned British artist Ralph Steadman — is 'detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.'"

Michigan is the only state, of the more than 40 states where the beer is sold, to ban it.

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Education
1:00 am
Wed January 19, 2011

Grand Rapids Public Schools discuss public comment policy

Board member Maureen Slade (middle) gestures at security guards at the meeting, "I don't think we have anything to fear from our public."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools is revising how it lets people comment at school board meetings. The district has a unique policy (see page 51-54). A Grand Rapids school board member says he couldn’t find any other district in Michigan with a similar provision.

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Free speech
9:54 pm
Mon November 1, 2010

CMU students listen to and protest lecture of fundamental church members

CMU students protesting the appearance of the Westboro Baptist Church members
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church spoke to journalism students at Central Michigan University Monday. The church is known for protesting at the funerals of U.S. soldiers. The group was invited to speak to journalism law students about how far free speech is protected by the first amendment.

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Free Speech or Hate Speech (or both?)
3:09 pm
Tue October 26, 2010

Anti-gay church group to speak to CMU Journalism class

Photo from a WBC picket in Topeka, KS on December 2, 2005
(courtesy of Westboro Baptist Church)

Members of a controversial church group that protests outside soldiers' funerals will speak at Central Michigan University next week.

Journalism professor Tim Boudreau says he invited Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church to talk to his students.

Members of the Kansas church believe U.S. soldiers' deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

Boudreau says he caught his students by surprise when he told them who was coming.

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