Tag Archive: First Amendment

New Jersey Charter Schools Association attacks First Amendment rights

Cross-posted at Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 11.17.09 AMWhen the facts aren’t on your side…

When you’re up against the wall…

When you’ve been caught with your hand in the cookie jar…

You take the cheap shot.

That’s what the New Jersey Charter Schools Association did last week when they filed ethics charges against Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin who, along with doctoral student Mark Weber (aka. Jersey Jazzman) published this study on the segregationist practices of the state’s charter schools which concludes what we already knew (from JJ’s post):

New Jersey’s charter schools do not serve nearly as many children in economic disadvantage, who have special education needs, or who are English language learners as their host districts’ schools.

Here’s the crux of the NJCSA’s complaint:

Christie’s “Democratic Entrapment”

A particularly disturbing development is underway at the Governor’s latest so-called “Town Hall Meetings.” Originally, these meetings were purportedly designed and operated by the Governor’s office to solicit citizen feedback as well as provide a genuine democratic venue for citizens. The problem is, and I’m not exaggerating here, the presence of the Secret Police.

Citizens have reported that plainclothes members of law enforcement have been photographing participants, demonstrators, etc. According to published reports, many of these ‘photographers’ have admitted to being members of law enforcement who were on the job.

Commentators have reported that this is “Nixonian” in scope, but to be honest, it’s much, much worse. What the governor is doing is basically entrapping citizens and engaging in a “bait and switch.” He’s marketing himself and his events as a democratic exercise, but instead they’re obviously being utilized to secretly gather information on citizens in the midst of exercising the very First Amendment rights they’ve been invited to express.

I’m not going to fault the governor for preferring some questions from participants over others; that’s only natural. But I must say that it’s rather bizarre that, aside from audience outbursts, none of the meetings have directly addressed the fact that the governor’s office is now at the center of state and federal probes for abuse of power and improper use of taxpayer funds. And more disturbing, of course, is that with the abuse of power allegations, we’ve moved beyond accusations as there is clear proof in the form of the documentation uncovered from Bridget Kelly and others.

But there is something deeper going on here, and it has to do with a clear contempt for the Constitution and the concept of citizenship itself. The idea to order state law enforcement – or whoever they are – to send such a chilling, autocratic message to citizens who are simply expressing ownership in the democratic system is antithetical to everything we believe in as a free people. Democracy by nature is messy and noisy; it’s not the equivalent to a high school assembly. These people are taxpaying adults and voters; they are not children or subjects to be ‘managed’ or ‘intimidated.’ Apparently we now have a Chief Executive who is so disdainful of the Bill of Rights, of the Right to Assemble and Petition, that he is transforming these meetings into a venue for the justifiably paranoid.

There is something that can be done about this immediately. The Legislature should quickly summon State Police executives and members of the Governor’s office to find out exactly why pictures are being taken and what criteria exist that determine who or what will be recorded. In fact, I would ask our elected representatives to immediately exercise this executive oversight to send a strong message to the governor that our rights and liberties are to be taken seriously.  

Anonymous Expression: It Helped to Make America

This is interesting, given the fact that Blue Jersey has a number of writers – both staff and reader – who post under anonymous usernames. Promoted by Rosi.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the heroic marvels of human freedom. Written carefully by one of America’s greatest legal minds, James Madison, and widely approved by the First Congress and the original 13 States, its words toll out as a celebration of liberation and a warning to would-be tyrants everywhere, particular in terms of its speech and press freedom provisions:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

To Fight Gun Violence, We’ll Need to Change Our Strategy

 Man, you’ve got to love New Jersey’s Gunnies. Like their Eagle-loving brethren in the other great states of the Nugent Republic, they feel the need to carry, load, polish, write about, blog over, buy, sell, massage, aim and shoot their constitutionally protected, sacred firearms. I know these people well. I used to be one of them. And before I go into an entire explanation of their beliefs and their vision for America’s future, I want to start off with a very, very important statement. Though their view of history is skewed and their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution is faulty, on legal grounds, they’re winning. They’re winning big-time. And the people of New Jersey need to know there is a very good chance that, using recent U.S. Supreme Court precedents, the Gunnies are very close to achieving most if not all of their goals right here in the Garden State.

“Come Dancer, Come Prancer”, but leave Jesus in the Church

Assemblyman Ronald Dancer’s bill to “clarify” the way public schools treat religious holidays is just another ill-advised salvo in the War on the First Amendment.

According to a State GOP press release, Dancer’s bill would allow school districts to “observe nationally recognized holidays without the fear of litigation” by requiring all “nationally recognized” holidays to be observed with religious symbols and music.

This may be a feel-good initiative for Dancer, but it is ill-advised and a waste of time and money on many levels.

To begin with, the First Amendment is a federal, not a state law. Even if Dancer’s legislation is passed and signed by the governor (who coddles the religious right), it will not stop litigation by those who feel their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon.

And what constitutes a “nationally recognized” religion? Unfortunately, the only nationally recognized religious holiday is Christmas, although it has become more of a commercial endeavor than a religious one. Who decides what a “nationally recognized” religion is? The courts? The legislature? The school board? Is Islam a nationally recognized religion? Is Wicca? Is Judaism? None of them have a federal or state holiday.

The separation of church and state must be absolute. Secular songs like “Frosty the Snowman” in a sixth grade winter assembly should be allowed. “Silent Night” is best left to the church.

I’m going to make a leap of faith and assume Dancer is a Christian. He would be better off spending his time promoting Christian values by working to reduce the obscene poverty rates in New Jersey, eliminating gun violence, and saving the Earth that God gave to us by supporting clean energy and anti-pollution legislation. But those initiatives don’t play well within his party, so like many of his colleagues, Dancer is promoting a bill that makes his supporters feel good, but in the end accomplishes nothing.

We expect better than this from Democrats

“I may not agree with what you say, but I shall defend to my death your right to say it” – Patrick Henry

You may be familiar with that quote, or the one below:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment to The United States Constitution

These are very basic guiding values in this Country. Free speech – regardless of how popular or unpopular it may be viewed as, not suppressing voices that you don’t agree with. But up in the Fifth Congressional District, at least one Candidate, Adam Gussen, seems to think that “free speech” should be based on an artificial and undefined “filter”.

A bit of backstory for those who aren’t familiar with the Fifth District – as of now, there are three candidates, Gussen (the Deputy Mayor of Teaneck, which is new to the District), Jason Castle, a veteran who did not obtain enough signatures to be put on the Bergen County Democratic ballot, and Diane Sare, a LaRouche Democrat who is running in the primary because the LaRouche Party couldn’t get a separate line on the ballot. But all three are running.

Now, Sare’s views aren’t all that popular with the Democratic establishment, and they may not be all that popular in general – she is calling for the impeachment of Obama but also is looking to restore the Glass-Steagall Act, which has a lot of merit. But I don’t want to discuss her candidacy here, since I don’t know enough about it. I want to discuss the defense of free but objectionable (I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt as objectionable for now regardless of whether it actually is) speech by the Democratic Party – especially those who are running for Federal office.

In the article linked above, it was reported that Gussen said the following about Sare:

“I find the LaRouche platforms and their candidates to be offensive and destructive.

“I think that the Democratic Party, while honoring and giving life to the ideals and concepts of free speech, that there is a reasonable level of filtering that could take place. This is noise that should be filtered out,”

Now, I’m not sure where there is a way to find out exactly where the tipping point is for “reasonable filtering” of free speech. For example, let’s say that Sare is calling for impeachment of Obama, and cites his signing of NDAA, which allowed for the indefinite detainment of US citizens on American soil without trial. Did Gussen think it was ok to call for Bush’s impeachment for that very same thing, but it isn’t ok if it is Obama? What is so destructive and offensive that it can trump the suppression of First Amendment rights – especially by a Congressional Candidate?

Now, this isn’t to say that I am supporting Jason Castle or Diane Sare. But it does set off an alarm that a DEMOCRATIC Congressional Candidate supports the suppression of free speech based on arbitrary adjectives such as “destructive” or “offensive”. Perhaps it is the mere calling for suppression of free speech that is destructive and offensive.