The Roberts Court (2005–present)


In what decision did the Roberts Court examine the message “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”?

The Roberts Court ruled in Morse v. Frederick (2007) that a high school principal in Alaska did not violate the First Amendment rights of one of her students when she punished him for his “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner. Student Joe Frederick displayed the banner, as the Olympic Torch Relay passed down a public street across from Juneau-Douglas High School. Frederick skipped school that day and sought to make a statement about his First Amendment rights. He claimed that the message was not a pro-drug message, but principal Deborah Morse claimed that the message contradicted the school’s anti-drug policies.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his majority opinion, created an exception to the famous Warren Court Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) precedent that established that students do not lose their free-speech rights at school. Roberts rejected the argument that Frederick’s speech was sufficiently offcampus. He then ruled that school officials can censor student expression that they reasonably believe promotes illegal drug use.


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