Free Speech Takes a Big Hit in "Bong" Case

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:34 AM EDT

Well, that sure ended badly. The Supreme Court ruled today that public schools can limit students' speech if they express themselves in a way that might be construed as pro-drug. The case in question involved an Alaska student who'd been suspended after he unfurled a tongue-in-cheek banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school event. Chief Justice Roberts argued that because the banner just might give someone the idea that toking up is OK, it could be suppressed: ''The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic. But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one." By that standard, couldn't someone reasonably interpret the banner as a religious message and therefore demand its protection? Apparently not.

When this case hit the docket a few months ago, I figured it would be a novelty. Boy, was I wrong. The decision was 5-4, but you already knew that, right?

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