Mass Communication Law and Ethics

By Roy L. Moore | Go to book overview

Women's Health Center and Schenck v. Pro Choice Network. The limits will be a bit tricky to discern, however, until the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts attempt to clarify such concepts as floating buffer zone versus fixed buffer zone.

Some of the most interesting prior restraint cases receive little attention because they do not affect millions of people, but they offer a taste of some of the thorny prior restraint issues we will face as the 21st century draws near. Schools in Pasadena and Bayton, Texas, banned students from drawing the peace symbol in class because officials believed devil worshippers use it. One 12-year-old was quoted as responding, "If they ban peace symbols, they'll have to ban basic geometry because of all its lines." 339

Several years ago, Eastfield Elementary School (Marion, NC) officials were faced with the problem of three children in the same family who continued to shout Bible verses and preach during classes. Duffey Strode (10) was suspended five times for his preaching and his sister, Pepper (6), and his brother, Matthew (5), had been suspended four times each by the principal after hundreds of parents complained and signed petitions against the children's preaching. The children's parents claimed their sons and daughter have a First Amendment right to sermonize in school, but other parents and school officials saw it differently. 340

After law student Tim Maguire claimed in a story in the student paper, Georgetown Law Weekly, in the early 1990s that the university's law center had lower admissions standards for African Americans than Whites, a free speech battle emerged during which the African-American Law Students Association urged that Maguire be expelled. Charges that he had violated the student code were dropped after a settlement was reached in which he was allowed to graduate with a reprimand on his record. 341

Finally, does an individual have a First Amendment right to speak out on his or her epitaph? When Shelia Shea, a 43-year-old mother of two, died of cancer in 1986, her executor honored a provision in her will that the epitaph on her tombstone say, "Who the hell is Shelia Shea?" Shea was buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, where writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau lie. Cemetery officials wanted the epitaph removed, but finally gave up after the executor refused to remove it and it appeared, at least to the officials, that the First Amendment would protect Shea's monument. 342 Her freedom of speech lives on.


ENDNOTES
1.
Shenck, Duty to One's Country (Conversation with Kurt Vonnegut), 1 CV 58 ( April 1989).
2.
Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, 51 S.Ct. 625, 75 L.Ed. 1357, 1 Med.L.Rptr. 1001 ( 1931).
3.
W. BLACKSTONE, COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND151-152 ( 1820).
4.
Charles Kuralt, Annual Joe Creason Lecture at the University of Kentucky Honors Day ( April 28, 1989) (reprinted in booklet published by the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications First Amendment Center). The veteran CBS newsman died unexpectedly at the age of 62 on July 4, 1997.
5.
See Christina Pino-Marina, Iran Hopes to Turn the Page on Rushdie, USA Today, June 22, 1995, at A4, col. 3.
6.
See Feminist Writer Flees Threats in Bangladesh, Lexington ( ky.) Herald-Leader (Associated Press), August 11, 1994, at A7, col. 1; Bangladeshi Author Comes Out of Hiding, Lexington ( ky.) Herald-Leader (Associated Press), August 19, 1994, at A12, col. 1.

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