SpeakSpeak News


Federal First Amendment Case Hinges on Candy Canes

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 10:16 am

In Plano, TX, both sides in a First Amendment battle have rejected settlement offers, thus sending the case to federal court.

The case involves an elementary school holiday party in which a student was prohibited from passing out candy-cane-shaped pens with religious messages on them. The child’s parents sued, alleging a pattern of infringement upon their free speech and religious rights.

More from the Dallas Morning News.

Video Game Restrictions Threaten First Amendment, Columnist Says

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 10:08 am

John Hrabe, president of the California Legislative Institute, equates a pending California bill that would restrict access to violent video games with a dead pope’s banned book list.

Today, the Assembly Arts and Entertainment Committee will review a bill by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, that would restrict minors’ access to certain “ultra'’ violent video games. Although well-intended, Yee’s bill represents the scariest approach to unwanted expression. AB 450 not only violates the First Amendment, but also dangerously conflates violence with obscenity.

Video games have made significant advancements since the days of “Pong'’ and “Frogger.'’ With those advancements, anti-violence advocates claim that expression standards must adapt. But, the First Amendment was designed to protect such technological innovations. When our founders debated the adoption of the First Amendment, every attempt to weaken the amendment was soundly defeated. Consequently, new technologies like radio, television and the Internet have all been recognized as protected means of expression.

Read it all in the San Jose Mercury News.

See also: When is violent speech free speech? CivilRights.org

Mom Rules the Remote, Study Finds

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 10:02 am

A marketing study has found that most mothers of kids under 14 regularly make decisions regarding their children’s TV viewing habits. According to the study, a whopping 92% of mothers of kids eight and under say just say ‘No’ to some programs, while 71% of 13- and 14-year-olds’ moms utilize the remote with abandon.

Will someone please send this to Bozell?

From Business Wire.

Stevens, Brownback Vie for FCC Patronage

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 9:58 am

Senators Ted “Wash Their Mouths Out” Stevens and Sam “Spank ‘em” Brownback are both lobbying for their proteges to be appointed as FCC commissioner. One commission seat was left vacant by the resignation of former chair Michael Powell.

Stevens is pushing for Christine Kurth, a staff member on Steven’s Senate Commerce Committee. Brownback is putting his money on Howard Waltzman, who previously worked for Brownback for six years.

Billboard Radio Monitor reports that after Waltzman left Brownback’s employ in the Senate, he

…then moved to the House side in 2002, where he became Chief Telecommunications Counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Unmentioned in the announcement is that Waltzman also worked for Empower America, whose board of directors includes high-profile right-wingers William Bennett and Jeanne Kilpatrick. He was also press secretary for Newt Gingrich confidante, former Rep. Gary Franks, R-Conn.

Waltzman was one of the architects of the House version of the Broadcast Decency Act, which would hike broadcast indecency fines to $500,000.

ABC Will Air “Focus on the Family” Commercial; Refused United Church of Christ’s

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 9:46 am

ABC will air a commercial for a Focus on the Family subsidiary during its May 2nd broadcast of Supernanny.

Last fall, the network refused to air a commercial produced by the United Church of Christ. The UCC ad showed bouncers posted at a church’s doors. The tag line read “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.” Major networks, including ABC, refused to run the ad, stating that it was “too controversial.”

The FoF Supernanny ad promotes the FoF program “Focus on Your Child,” a parental education program that uses James Dobson’s teachings – oh, and the Bible – as its foundation.

Lest we forget, this program is brought to you by the folks who outed SpongeBob (which apparently wasn’t “too controversial").

More at Media Matters.

Cable Guy: Self-Regulate, Or Go a la Carte

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 9:32 am

Michael Willner, chairman of cable company Insight Communications (which ranks 9th among cable firms), told the Cable Television Public Affairs Association that cable needs to buck up in a hurry. The choices, he said, were to self-regulate a little more proactively, or be subjected to an “a la carte” cable packaging system.

Participants in the panel then chatted about what makes “family friendly” family friendly. Who defines it? How do the cable companies create such a package? Turns out it’s trickier than it sounds.

When an audience member asked the panel why the industry did not create a family-friendly tier, there was general agreement that a) it is virtually impossible to define family-friendly–Lee pointed out that her son watches MTV, which she considers family-friendly, while others might not–and b) subscribers are already able to create their own tiers of service using the channel blocking technologies available.

Put content controls in the hands of parents, said Cox COO Patrick Esser, and let them parent. Esser said the company was open to tiers if he thought it was what the viewers wanted, but suggested they can use that content control to make their own tiers.

Henry Schleiff, head of Court TV, agreed with Lee that one person’s family may not be the next’s and that defining what would go in a family-friendly tier is problematic, pointing out that before the Super bowl, noone would probably have argued with putting the Super Bowl in a family-friendly tier.

From Broadcasting & Cable.

AFA Mobilizes to Back Spellings on ‘Buster’

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 9:24 am

The American Family Association whipped its troops into action, again, and sent letters of support to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings over her criticism of the PBS show “Postcards from Buster.”

As we all know by now, Buster traveled to Vermont during one episode, where he briefly encountered – gasp! – lesbians. Spellings, on her second day on the job, remarked that “many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in [the] episode.”

But back to the AFA. According to USA Today, Spellings received almost 200,000 letters and emails on the subject, and she claims that over 80% supported her position. More than 150,000 of those came from the American Family Association.

“This issue really resonated, especially with parents of younger children,” AFA director Randy Sharp said. “They want to know that their tax dollars are not going to be used to create programs which promote things they inherently are opposed to.”

From USA Today.

Conservative Groups Seek to Ban Sex-Ed Curriculum Addressing Gay Issues

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 05/03/2005 @ 9:11 am

A storm is brewing in Montgomery County, Maryland, over health ed curriculum that would address gay issues.

The Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based legal aid group for religious causes, has filed suit on behalf of “Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum” and PFOX, or “Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays.”

“The school board has been captured by radical homosexual advocacy groups whose only agenda is to promote their political goals without respect to the consequences,” said Mathew D. Staver, Liberty Counsel’s president and general counsel (reported at Bozell’s Cybercast News Service).

Liberty Counsel offers the following examples from the instruction booklet:

– “Fact: Most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice;”

– “Fact: Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence and does not prove long-term sexual orientation;”

– “It is no more abnormal or sick to be homosexual than to be left-handed;”

– “Heterosexual parents are consistently not found to be more loving or caring than gay parents;”

– “Jesus said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality;”

– “Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression;”

– “One’s sexual and emotional orientations are fixed at an early age – certainly by age five;”

– “Human sexuality is a continuum;”

– “Many homophobic responses are born out of a fear that one’s own sexual orientation may not be entirely heterosexual;”

– “[A]bstinence until marriage” is detrimental to “GLBT youth;”

– “It is perfectly natural to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender.”

Bozell’s report neglects to note, however, that the county’s health curriculum coordinator has already removed some references from the curriculum that evangelicals found offensive. Russell Henke scrubbed the reference to same-sex sex play (bullet #2, above), and he also removed a notice in a curriculum guide that said students would be “discussing sexual identity” during the course of the class.

According to the Washington Blade, “Henke said the changes, which were voted on in November and recently announced during parent meetings, are ‘minor’ and not anti-gay.”

An interesting side note: Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, one of the plaintiffs seeking an injunction against the curriculum, first made a splash by protesting a video shown in Montgomery County. A woman in the video uses a cucumber to teach kids how to properly use a condom.

Though they may find the imagery scandalous, they prominently feature it on the front page of their website.

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