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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

The Fight for Freedom

The fight for our freedoms is a continuing struggle.

Really. It is.

There are unsung heroes out there battling almost every day to preserve our right to freedom of expression.

Here are a few examples that popped up in court rulings last week:

Aaron Tobey: Mr. Tobey had to go all the way up the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to protect his right to display a portion of the Constitution - on his chest.

According to Tobey, a trip to his grandfather's funeral was the ideal time to register his feeling that enhanced screening at the airport violated the Fourth Amendment.

What better way to do this than to take off his shirt and pants in front of the screening unit to reveal the text of the Fourth Amendment on his chest?

There's no explanation why he had to take his pants off, but since we know that stripping is a form of expression, it must have meant something. It may be that he loves the Constitution so much he wants to have sex with it. But I'm not sure.

Anyway, this startling display of constitutional text failed to have the desired effect. Tobey was arrested and released more than an hour later after officers conferred with someone from the Federal Air Marshal's Joint Terrorism Task Force, who apparently decided that naked constitutionalism would not endanger fellow passengers.

Our hero then got on a plane and headed for the funeral.

End of story?

Of course not. It was just the beginning of years of litigation over whether Shirtless Guy's First Amendment rights were violated.

The struggle continues and so does the lawsuit.

The late William David Bowden: Yes, we have a First Amendment martyr.

Well, OK, he didn't die battling for the First Amendment, but he did die during the course of his litigation and his estate continues the fight for him.

This is the fight to paint the words "Screwed by the Town of Cary" in bright fluorescent orange across a 15-foot swath of the façade of his house.

According to the 4th Circuit ruling: "It was not long before a passing motorist alerted the police to Bowden's handiwork."

The neighborhood watch in this town must be awesome. If they're reporting bright color violations that they happen to see in passing, you know nobody is getting away with anything there.

Favorite line from the ruling: "It defies common sense to argue - as Bowden does - that it is unclear under the Sign Ordinance whether the sign 'Screwed by the Town of Cary' qualifies as 'public art' or 'holiday decorations.'"

So, according to the court's ruling, the town could fine Bowden for the sign because it said something rather than just decorated his house.


John Doe: We have a constitutional right to join Facebook and we can thank a courageous sex offender for protecting it.

It's in a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for 7th Circuit, in which Mr. Doe, "on behalf of a class of similarly situated sex offenders," mounted a First Amendment challenge to an Indiana law barring the plaintiffs from using social media.

Sending notices to potential class members must have been an interesting assignment.

Anyhow, the sex offenders won. Look for a Sex Offenders Page on Facebook in the near future.

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