Former Whitewater special counsel Kenneth Starr petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Alaska's "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, a dispute involving a high school student, a banner and a tough school policy.I hear what you're saying. "Bong Hits 4 Jesus? I'd drink to that!" But for the uninformed, a little background:
As the Olympic torch relay passed by Juneau-Douglas High School in 2002, then-high school senior Joseph Fredrick was looking to catch the attention of television cameras converging on the event.Thought-crime, anyone?
So he held up a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."
Fredrick's message also caught the eye of the high school principal, and it earned him a 10-day suspension. School District officials said his banner violated the school's anti-drug policies.
Enter Starr, who apparently has nothing better to do than to make sure that Juneau teens aren't encouraged to toast Jesus with a toke. I guess this means that nothing untoward has happened in our nation's capital in the last six years.Anyway, not only is this extremely silly, the lawsuit itself is doing more to "promote" the, er, religious use of cannabis than anything Fredrick did:
Fredrick, then 18, sued the school but lost in federal District Court.
On Friday, a three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court order and said school officials violated Fredrick's free-speech rights. . . Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the school had to respond to the banner or risk sending a message that the school condoned illegal drug use.
On Jan. 24, 2002, the day of the torch relay, Fredrick was standing across the street from the school with other students who'd been let out of class for the event. Then-principal Deb Morse spotted his sign, crossed the street and told him to take it down. When he asked her about his freedom of speech, she said the message violated school policy against material that advertises or promotes the use of illegal drugs.
Morse grabbed the banner from him, crumpled it up and suspended him, according to the lawsuit. . .[T]he 9th Circuit Court said that even if the banner could be construed as a positive message about marijuana use, the question came down to whether a school may punish or censor a student's speech because it promotes a social message contrary to one the school favors.
"The answer under controlling, long-existing precedent is plainly 'No,'?" Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote in an 18-page opinion.
If the Juneau School Board, in its infinite stubbornness, is so worried that the message waved on a banner four years ago at a nonschool event will lead high school kids down the path to illegal drug use, why does it insist on giving the message such tremendous exposure?(And so it does.)
Google "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" and you'll get 14,100 hits. Included among them is proof positive that the message has become part of the vernacular: It has its own Wikipedia entry.
And forgive me for my cynicism, but I wonder how much of Starr's underlying reason for involving himself is the "Bong Hits" part and how much is the "4 Jesus" bit? (Further, I wonder how much of the original principal's, [about whom I know nothing aside from this case] hissy-fit about the sign was the drugs, and how much was Jesus on drugs...)
Cross-posted at Kakistocracy