Friday, March 27, 2009

Expressing Your Constitutional Liberties

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 U.S. Constitution The First Amendment is the blueprint for American freedoms. It is the hallmark of our society and a guarantee of our freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. It also protects our freedom to show someone New Jersey’s state bird. At least that’s what U.S. District Judge David Cercone of Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania ruled. A motorist who flipped off a police officer and received a disorderly conduct ticket has won a ruling that his gesture was protected by the First Amendment. In the spirit of our forefathers, David Hackbart “flipped the bird” to a motorist who blocked his parking space and then to the officer who told him to stop. According to Judge Cercone, "Hackbart, in this instance, was expressing his frustration and anger when he gestured with his middle finger to both the driver behind him and to [the officer]," Cercone wrote. "Both gestures are protected expressions under the First Amendment, unless they fall within a narrowly limited category of unprotected speech such as obscene speech or fighting words." Cercone granted Hackbart's motion for summary judgment and allowed the civil rights lawsuit to proceed to trial on related issues. According to the Pittsburg Tribune Review, Hackbart is claiming the incident caused him physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma, humiliation and distress. Thomas Jefferson once said No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. Maybe he meant fingers too.

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