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Currently Browsing: Civil Liberties

“Temporary Intrusion” of the First Amendment

The Express-Times in Lehigh Valley area decided to attack those concerned about potential constitutional violations in an op-ed, saying that those who have had their rights violated and want to stand up for them are merely “opportunistic” and too concerned with themselves to put up with a “temporary intrusion” that has lasted at least a week.

They even highlight a quote from the Pennsylvania State Police’s PR guy that assures us that not all people are completely cut off from their homes. Citizens can trust that if the police think you actually have a good reason to go to your home, then they will be the ones to decide if/when you get access, and only under escort if they like your reasons for wanting to go home.

So, I’d like to know how the Express-Times staff would react to the news that the state police argue that their coverage of the events is helping the suspect evade law enforcement. Sure, they have no actual evidence that the suspect has access to their papers, but it’s a possibility that he might be in the area and using the resources to evade them – like he might possibly be hiding out in every single car in the area or every home in the area.

Therefore, the police ask that the Express-Times stop publishing their paper during this “temporary intrusion” and that any efforts to argue that they have a First Amendment right that must be respected is a case of them being “opportunistic” and overly greedy with their Constitution rights claims.

Some public relations officer will remind their editors that they aren’t really blocking all access to their publishing equipment – because if the police determine there’s any message worth hearing, then they will provide an armed escort to any reporter or editor they hand select to supervise their limited visit to the printer.

I find it hard to believe that the Express-Times staff wouldn’t be on the phone to lawyers trying to argue for their Constitutional rights. Why are they condemning anyone else who is concerned that in specific instances, perhaps law enforcement have gone too far and actually crossed the line into violating someone’s rights?

According to another report on the situation, attorney Josh Prince has already talked to someone who was forced out of their home, despite having three dogs there, and has been refused access to care for them since Sunday. It was Tuesday when that story was posted. The New York Times found a man who was thrown to the ground and detained in handcuffs just for going to his own home.

Regardless of what the public relations officer is telling the media, it’s clear that there are reports from those forced to leave that the police are keeping people away from their homes. If they aren’t keeping them away from their homes, it’s clear that at least some officers have gotten a little too quick to act against local citizens. Any lawyer who is helping someone understand their rights – and whether or not they have been violated – should be applauded.

Having Your Rights Violated?

I can’t tell you how much I loved seeing a post from Pennsylvania attorney Josh Prince asking anyone in Pike and Monroe Counties to contact him if their rights have been violated based on an article linked here earlier today. I would love to see more people considering legal challenges to behavior like this from law enforcement when they cross the line and violate someone’s rights.

UPDATE: And, he actually provides tips on how to document everything regarding the violation of rights that one would need to create a good case.

Also, check the comments of both posts and note the people who are horrified at the idea that some lawyer is trying to let people know what to do to prepare a legal case if their rights are violated. They don’t understand why anyone has an issue with rights being violated as long as they are told someone is keeping them “safe.”

Suspending the Fourth Amendment in Pennsylvania

The manhunt for an accused cop killer is heating up in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I should be clear that I hope the State Police catch this guy, since regardless of whatever grudge one may have against cops in general, singling out two random officers for execution is unconscionable. But my support for the PSP in their manhunt is greatly tempered when I read of nonsense like this:

Heavily armed state troopers guarded an entrance into a neighborhood or area where they believe 31-year-old suspected cop killer Eric Frein may be hiding.

Police are checking every vehicle leaving. Local residents still have not been able to get back into their homes since last night, with some sleeping in shelters, others in their cars as it appears police are hot on Frein’s track but still haven’t got him.

No, you don’t get to kick people out of their homes and randomly search vehicles just because it’s a cop killer. You wouldn’t do that for someone who murdered a convenience store clerk, and you know it. You don’t get to suspend the Constitution just because its one of your own. This is what makes people hate cops in the first place.

Elections and Consequences

With so many of the administration’s policies facing legal challenges, the increased likelihood that those cases could end up before more ideologically sympathetic judges is a reassuring development to the White House. Nowhere has this dynamic been more evident than at the District of Columbia court, which is considered the second most important appeals court in the nation, after the Supreme Court.

It’s not just SCOTUS, he’s been able to rejigger the entire system.

Criminal Everything

This isn’t gun related, and it’s not really a case of true over-criminalization (though it easily could be if the state wanted to go after the family for truancy caused by the school), but it’s still something that pisses me off about the nanny culture getting its panties in a twist over any type of non-conformity.

If you’re a school administrator, there are some battles worth fighting. Students who fight, drug or alcohol abuse that impacts the school environment, and maybe even a few slaps on the wrist for overly revealing clothing. Then there are things that aren’t actually disruptive to anyone other than a tight ass who feels an absurd need to punish those who do not engage in groupthink. The principal of Muscle Shoals, Alabama appears to be one of those people.

He kicked out a girl for dying her hair red. Yup, red. Not purple, not blue, not green, not glittery silver, just red.

For the record, those other colors were all colors that I dyed my hair in high school without ever disrupting the school. The closest you might consider a disruption was at the end of my junior year when the school newspaper used me for a trivia question and asked what my normal hair color really was, and no one could remember so they kept asking me throughout the day. Yup, that’s the extent of “disruption” that hair color caused.

Her mother seems to understand how to distinguish between actual problematic behavior in teens and a bottle of red hair dye:

“I dyed my hair when I was her age. I was excited it was that, [that] it wasn’t a tattoo that she wanted or piercings, or something. There are so many girls that do it and there could be worse things. As long as she’s a good student, hair is the least of my worries.”

I framed things the same way to my mom when she was initially skeptical of my blue hair experiment. I could do drugs. I could engage in risky sexual activity. I could get myself arrested. I could “rebel” in any number of harmful ways. Instead, I was an honor student goodie two shoes who rarely did anything against the rules and I just dyed my hair. Hair that grows back. Hair that can be dyed back.

Even though I said at the beginning that this isn’t related to gun issues, I think I need to take that back a bit. The principal’s inability to handle a student who dyes her hair red is engaged in the same kind of thinking of not knowing how to distinguish between a real disruption or threat and something that’s just a little bit outside of the lines of “group” behavior that leads to actions like Six Flags banning veterans wearing military-themed shirts from their parks because the military shirt has a firearm. I’m not sure how you fix that kind of stupid by people who simply refuse to think critically and use a little common sense.

Fourth Amendment Protections Taken Seriously in Arizona

In a case where being polite and cooperating with police quickly turned into commands that a reasonable person would not have felt were optional so that they could leave, the Arizona Supreme Court said that in order to conduct a frisk of a person, “officers must reasonably suspect both that criminal activity is afoot and that the suspect is armed and dangerous.”

The case stems from a stop where multiple officers approached a man who was on the street having a conversation with a woman. They admit that he was polite to them and cooperating fully, and prosecutors apparently tried argued that such polite behavior at the beginning of a stop is a sign of consent to a later search. One of the officers spotted a bulge on the waistband and asked if the man was carrying a firearm. The man admitted that he was, and that’s when officers started commanding him to put his hands on his head, disarmed him, and then later arrested him once they found out he had a prior felony. (The article doesn’t say what that prior record was about.) The Court said that the stop was illegal and therefore they threw out the conviction for being a felon in possession.

Gun issues aside, I’m quite impressed with this quote from the opinion in the article where the Court’s decision said, “police interactions with members of the public are inherently fluid, and what begins as a consensual encounter can evolve into a seizure that prompts Fourth Amendment scrutiny.”

Supreme Court Rules in Hobby Lobby’s Favor

This is off topic, but it’s the big case of the year, so I thought it warranted coverage. The Supreme Court issued a narrow 5-4 decision in Hobby Lobby’s favor. Narrow because the decision only applies to closely held corporations, and applies to contraception mandates, but not to all insurance mandates. I tend to agree with the applicability being only to closely held corporations, in it would be difficult to divine the religious views of a widely-held, public corporation. Objections would tend only to reflect the views of management, who are in no respects representing the will of shareholders. It would be interesting to know what affect this would have in a non-profit corporation, say, a Catholic Charity, but I suspect it would apply to them as well. It would be less clear how this would apply to a membership non-profit like the NRA.

I’m more skeptical of the notion that the RFRA doesn’t apply to all insurance mandates. If a Christian Scientist business doesn’t want to offer coverage for “blood transfusions or vaccinations,” who are the courts to come along and say some people’s religious beliefs against contraception or abortion more legitimate than other people’s religious beliefs against blood transfusions or vaccinations? That’s the government deciding some religions are greater religions, while others are less so. It smacks of establishment to me.

Redefining Freedom & Ignoring History

This is where I come to post the things that will get me in trouble on Facebook. :) Today’s topic: redefining freedom & ignoring history.

Someone mentioned a lineage group that I might be interested in for women with ancestors in New England, and I probably should not have laughed at the description to “perpetuate the ideals and spirit of the indomitable men and women of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts who laid the foundations of our nation’s civil and religious freedom.” Ahem.

Let’s talk about that “foundation of…religious freedom” from the New England colonies because I’m pretty sure that the foundation isn’t anything like what we consider freedom today. I’m not a historian, but as I recall, those early settlers largely came here for their religious freedom, but not to celebrate or recognize anyone else’s religious freedom. In fact, the New England states were some of the most fierce in trying to force people to a particular religion or into funding religion with taxes whether you wanted to or not. From the Library of Congress:

Religious taxes were laid on all citizens, each of whom was given the option of designating his share to the church of his choice. Such laws took effect in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire…

In other words, it reminds me of many New England states now – you’re free to live in the way they tell you to live. The New England states, with the exception of Rhode Island, even had official religions into the 19th century. The Congregational Church was the established religion by the government of Massachusetts until 1833, New Hampshire until 1819, and Connecticut until 1818.

Not even Vermont, rated as the least religious state in the union now, had any sort of foundation of what we would call freedom of religion since only men who would “profess the protestant religion” could serve office. In fact, that was pretty much a given across New England even though other states were already cutting back, like Pennsylvania which only asked that you believe in some form of God. From what I’ve read, it’s actually the Southern states that pushed for the separation of church and state that would actually give us something closer to the foundation of the freedom to worship or not worship that we know today.

So, while I have no issue with the particular lineage society, I really, really hope that they aren’t making any significant effort to truly “perpetuate” religious freedom as our New England ancestors of colonial/early statehood days knew it. I, personally, would just like to leave that view of “freedom” behind.

(more…)

School Bias – Getting Grades for No Dissent

A Connecticut school filters out all Republican and issue group websites that are commonly associated with GOP supporters, including pro-Second Amendment websites while gun control websites were all approved.

Even more interesting is that the student was attempting to look up the material while conducting the research for an assigned classroom debate. It’s awfully interesting that the school, which made it partisan when it opted to ban the official GOP website while allowing the Democratic website, is grading students for their participation in “debates,” but refuses to allow them to see any alternate viewpoints to present to their peers.

It’s even more interesting that the student only reported the incident to the media after notifying school authorities and he noticed that they refused to fix the blatant bias. Even now that the media is on the story, they only say that they “appreciated hearing the comments” and he raised an accusation that might warrant an investigation. But, hey, it’s just the tax dollars of Connecticut voters shutting down access to information from different political views – no big deal and nothing to see here…

Gun Possession in Iraq

Clayton Cramer notes that reports out of Iraq show that the ISIS leaders have declared new rules for those in area they control that include a gun ban for anyone not in their ranks. It’s interesting how that also comes along with a ban on any public gathering not organized by ISIS as well.

It’s almost like those people who use the bumper sticker phrase that their Second Amendment right protects the First Amendment rights of others might possibly be on to something about the importance of both rights.

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