Free Speech – Common Ground Between WILL and the ACLU
Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy shares this story about the ACLU of Connecticut defending the right of a high school student to wear an anti-gay marriage t-shirt to school. The high school sponsored a “day of silence” in order to “promote tolerance for alternative lifestyles, including homosexuality.” On that day, the student at issue wore a t-shirt depicting a rainbow with a slash through it on one side and a male and female stick figure holding hands on the other above the words “Excessive Speech Day.” The student was forced to remove the shirt.
The ACLU wrote a letter to the school explaining that its actions were unconstitutional under clearly-established Supreme Court precedent and threatening to sue if the school did not change its ways. Under a lengthy line of cases originating with Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), a school may not prohibit students from wearing expressive attire unless it would “materially or substantially interfere with . . . the operations of the school” or cause “invasion of the rights of others.” The entire letter is reprinted in the blog post.
There are many cases and causes the ACLU would take up that WILL would not, and vice versa. But here we agree that the right of dissenters to express their dissent must be protected as strongly as possible. We have taken on a similar case defending the right of people to express their anti-wind turbine opinions through yard signs. We applaud the ACLU’s stance for free speech.