By Doug Newman

January 23, 2007

Posted at Liberty Post, Lone Lantern, Christian Libertarians, Covenant News, Rational Review,
Beating the Powers That Be, Novakeo's Blog, The Price of Liberty, The Libertarian Enterprise and Old Right Pundits.

When I was growing up somewhere in the swamps of Jersey, I had a friend who would sometimes ask the following when things were blown out of proportion: “Do you have to make a federal issue out of it?”

I was reminded of this when I read that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Morse and the Juneau School Board et al. v. Frederick.

The case began in early 2002, when Joseph Frederick, a high school student in Juneau, Alaska, went on a school field trip to watch the Olympic Torch as it passed through town en route to Salt Lake City. It was there that he unfurled a banner that read “Bong hits 4 Jesus.”

Isn't this just free-spirited high school mischief?

Deborah Morse, the high school principal, did not think so. Even though Frederick displayed the offending, seditious, end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it banner off of school grounds, Morse suspended him for ten days.

This was just the beginning of the "Bong hits 4 Jesus" madness. Frederick eventually sued in federal district court on First Amendment grounds. The court ruled in favor of the school district. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court and ruled in Frederick’s favor.

Enter Kenneth Starr, the former US Solicitor General and Whitewater prosecutor who was very active in pushing for Bill Clinton’s impeachment. He has convinced the Court to hear this case.  He will represent the school district.

Starr, who is now dean of the law school at Pepperdine University, wants the Court to have the chance “to clear up the doctrinal fog infecting student speech jurisprudence.’"

Did I miss the Big News? Did they catch bin Laden?

How about clearing up the doctrinal fog infecting the Bill of Rights?

The Bill of Rights is really a bill of prohibitions on federal intrusions on the rights of thee and me. If federal judges actually read the first ten amendments to the Constitution, we would live in quite a different America.

Free speech – protected by the First Amendment – would be secure. Your rights to do things such as have your bong hits and to opt out of government education -- protected by the Ninth Amendment – would be secure. Federal intrusion in education – forbidden by the Tenth Amendment – would be non-existent. No doctrinal fog here.

In short, your right to do as you willy-nilly pleased as long as you did not harm anyone else would be secure from the predations of control freaks left and right. Your right to be left alone would be secure.

A YouTube video made the point that the ACLU is defending Frederick’s right to unfurl a banner that included the name of “Jesus”. At the same time, a stalwart of the Christian Right has his trousers in such a wad that he has convinced the Supremes to hear the case.

If the mere mention of “bong hits” sends these Holy Joes over the edge, how about Genesis 1:29?

"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth,
and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." (KJV)

"Every herb bearing seed" means exactly that: "every herb bearing seed". This includes hippy lettuce.

It is enough that – in a post-9/11 America -- what was left of the Constitution was sent through the shredder under the guise of fighting terrorism. (Most of it had already been finished off in the name of the War on Drugs.)

In the future – in a post-“Bong hits 4 Jesus” America -- will everyone who has just a little too much fun wind up before the Supreme Court in order to clear up someone’s "doctrinal fog”?

I opened with a question asked by a friend from New Jersey. I will close with a question once asked by a friend from Arizona:

“Lord, when’s the Big Rock gonna hit?”

Related essay: It Takes a Police State to Raise a Child

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Freely Speaking: Essays by Doug Newman