What does that mean? Is that “blow” like in “You know how to whistle don’t you” Just put your lips together and blow?” Or is that “blow” as in “cocaine,” or is it blow like “fellate?” Take your pick.
Nonsense? Yes… but not if you are a high school student. Those words may be interpreted by an authority figure as loaded words that advocate something prohibited in a school policy.
Kind of like “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” Does that phrase promote marijuana use? Promote Christianity? Nonsense? definitely… Is it likely to promote some kind of harm or disturbance that the government wishes to avoid? Not likely. Was it disruptive? Not until the principle demanded that the students take it down.
But that didn’t stop the Supreme Court from ruling 5-4 against Joseph Frederick, the one student holding the banner that refused the principal’s order. Principal Morse wanted it down because she interpreted it to promote drug use, and she believed that schools should be able to enforce their zero-tolerance drug policies. Okay, I’ll give them that authority on school grounds and at school functions. But holding up an obliquely worded message designed to attract television cameras at an Olympic Torch Relay event on non-school property? You’ve got to be kidding me. 5-4? That’s a 9-0 vote in favor of a citizen’s right to free speech in any modern democracy.
Was it more offensive because it said “4 Jesus?” Depends on what you believe. Roberts did not mention it in his majority opinion. But I have to think that if Hendrickson’s banner read “Bong Hits 4 Buddha” it would not have received much attention and a legal case, if any, would not have progressed to the Supreme Court.
If you are interested, you can read the whole Supreme Court opinion here. I did, and I found that Justice Stevens’ dissenting opinion (starting at page 45) made far more sense than Roberts’s majority opinion.
So drugs are bad, especially when mixed with Christianity. What about sex? Last I heard, the schools weren’t enforcing a zero-tolerance-for-sex rule and they weren’t testing kids to make sure they were virgins. So could a principal prohibit students from hoisting a nonsensical banner mixing sexual innuendo during a similar event?
Someday we may find out.
So, what I suggest is that we further test the boundaries of student speech. If you know any high school students, feel free to encourage them to see how far they can go with any of the following ambiguous messages:
Shoot Up 4 Shiva
Pipe Licks 4 Mary
Light up 4 Allah
Huff 4 Hosanahs
Eat Tabs 4 Yahweh
Mainline 4 Mwari
Cracking 4 Christ
Jello Shots 4 Jehovah
Sloppy Seconds 4 Agnostics
Adrenachrome 4 Atheists