First Amendment Newsflash 7/10-23

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.


Supreme Court News

A petition for writ of certiorari has been filed in Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, the case of the Washington State florist who refused to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding, citing religious freedom and free expression.


Other Court News

A federal judge has blocked Milwaukee’s permit requirements for augmented reality games while a First Amendment suit on the matter is pending.

The ACLU of Rhode Island has sued the City of Cranston, RI, over the town’s panhandling ordinance, which the ACLU says violates the First Amendment. Meanwhile, Columbus, OH has stopped enforcing its panhandling ordinances in order to avoid First Amendment violations.

In another panhandling case, the City of Slidell, LA has decided not to appeal a June district court ruling declaring its panhandling ordinance unconstitutional.

Facebook is arguing in federal court against a court order blocking the company from informing users when law enforcement execute search warrants to view their online information.

A federal district court struck down a California town’s sign ordinance, which allowed special provisions for new businesses and certain holidays, citing Town of Gilbert. Read The Washington Posts’ analysis here.

The Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, held that prayers before Rowan County, NC Board of Commissioners meetings were unconstitutionally coercive, reversing the ruling of the three-judge panel and upholding the district court’s opinion. Read WRAL’s analysis here.

Two Pennsylvania high school students have sued their school district for First Amendment violations after administrators conditioned approval of their proposed pro-life club on the group changing its mission statement and agreeing to abstain from certain activities.

The Second Circuit ruled that a Catholic elementary school principal fell into the ministerial exception in employment discrimination law, although the principal was not clergy. Read the New York Law Journal’s analysis here. has sued the Attorney General of Missouri, alleging that the state’s investigations into the website were meant to censor the website.

A suit was filed in federal court alleging that Wisconsin’s hunter harassment law, which proscribes recording hunters among other activities “intended to impede or obstruct a person who is engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping,” violates the First Amendment.

New Mexico Representative Steve Pearce has sued New Mexico’s elections official, alleging that the state’s campaign finance laws that prevent him from transferring roughly $1 million from his congressional campaign committee to his campaign for governor violate the First Amendment.

In the First Amendment suit of the ExposeDAT blogger whose home was searched after a complaint for criminal defamation was filed, a federal judge ruled against dismissing her First and Fourth Amendment claims against the sheriff who executed the search. The judge also ruled that the sheriff is not entitled to qualified immunity. Read Eugene Volokh’s analysis at the Washington Post here.

The Ninth Circuit will decide the case, which involves federal investigators’ attempts to seek identifying information of anonymous users of the employment review site, under seal.

A human rights organization has sued the Kentucky Department of Corrections, alleging that the department’s policy of rejecting book donations for prisons that are not on a pre-approved list violates the First Amendment.

A Washington State resident filed suit against the state, alleging its cyberstalking statute violates the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment.


Federal Legislative News

“Israel Anti-Boycott Acts” have been introduced in the House and the Senate. Critics have expressed concerns that, as currently written, the bills would make supporting boycotts of Israel a federal crime, raising First Amendment issues. Some cosponsors, including Rep. Joe Kennedy III, have said the bills are not intended to criminalize expressive activity, and that they will be reviewed.

The House rejected a proposal to have the Pentagon study Islamic beliefs that might be used to encourage terrorism.

State Legislative News

Rhode Island became the thirteenth state to pass legislation protecting the rights of student journalists to choose the content of student media. The bill will “protect student journalists, and their advisers, from retaliation and censorship for lawful journalistic speech.” Read the Student Press Law Center’s summary here.


Other News & Commentary

The Columbia Journalism Review highlighted ten “overlooked” press freedom organizations here.

Amidst controversy about Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, some First Amendment scholars have argued that his conduct is protected by the First Amendment.


That’s it for your First Amendment Newsflash July 10-23, 2017. See you again on August 6!


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