Freedom of Speech

Nathan Lane Begins Off-Broadway Run as Blacklisted Hollywood Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo

A new theater piece based on the letters of legendary screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo opened an off-Broadway run on September 4, with Nathan Lane starring as Trumbo. "TRUMBO" is being produced with assistance from People For the American Way.

New Legislation Will Counter Civil Liberties Dangers of Patriot Act

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) yesterday introduced the Protecting the Rights of Individuals (PRI) Act, a bill that would serve as the first broad-based legislative response to the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in the weeks after September 11, 2001. The bill, which is endorsed by People For the American Way and enjoys support from other groups across the ideological spectrum, could curtail some of the most draconian aspects of the Justice Department’s anti-terrorism work. Few of these efforts have been demonstrated as effective in the fight against terrorism, serving mostly to endanger the privacy and chill the free speech rights of ordinary, innocent Americans.

PFAW Foundation Joins With Unlikely Allies in Brief Against Unauthorized, Unconstitutional Padilla Detention

Executive Branch Has No Power to Detain Citizens Indefinitely Without Explicit Congressional Authorization

PFAW Joins Senator Wyden in Unveiling Bill To Monitor Government Use of Personal Information

People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas joined Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and other leaders from a broad coalition of civil liberties and privacy organizations to support new legislation Wyden has authored to strengthen legal protections for personal information against government abuse.

Supreme Court Decision: Internet Ruling Damages Rights of Library Users

The Supreme Court today narrowed the protection of free speech on the internet and in America’s libraries, endorsing internet filters as a tool for the government to mandate decisions about what is available in a public library.

Appeals Court Upholds Arrest and Detention Secrecy

This ruling allows the Department of Justice to bury these secret arrests even deeper. Now the public is denied access even to the names of attorneys representing detainees. Indeed, this ruling takes us closer to authorizing the government to use secret arrests and detentions on a broad range of criminal suspects — or just outspoken critics. The repercussions could be disastrous.

Flag Desecration Amendment: Making Dissent a Criminal Act

A resolution authorizing a “flag desecration” amendment is expected to reach the floor of the House of Representatives today. The amendment would for the first time write into the Constitution an exception to the First Amendment’s guarantee that Congress “make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…”

Hall of Fame Uses Baseball as Weapon Against Political Dissent

PFAW President and lifelong baseball fan Ralph G. Neas sent a letter calling on Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey to reconsider his decision to cancel a celebration of the 15th anniversary of “Bull Durham” because of the political activism of two of its stars. “Baseball is one of the great American traditions,” Neas wrote. “But an even greater and longer American tradition is the right of free speech.”

Amendment Demanding Answers On Air Travel Data Mining Adopted in Committee

In a victory for civil liberties, the Senate Commerce Committee adopted an amendment to an air cargo safety bill that would demand answers about an invasive passenger profiling system. The amendment, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), now moves with the bill to the Senate floor. People For the American Way joined a coalition of civil liberties groups from across the ideological spectrum to urge Senators to adopt the language.

Senate Passes Unconstitutional Bill to Undermine Reproductive Rights

In defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down as unconstitutional a similar Nebraska ban on so-called “partial birth” abortion procedures, the Senate voted 64-33 to approve the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.”

People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas said the legislation was a far broader attack on women’s reproductive choice than its sponsors have claimed. The bill, which contains language that is so broad it could forbid some of the most safe and common abortion procedures available to women, sets the stage for further encroachments on reproductive freedom.

Third Circuit Agrees Again: Internet Censorship Law Unconstitutional

In Response to Supreme Court Ruling, Third Circuit Strengthens Finding that COPA Violates Free Speech
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled again on March 6 that the “Child Online Protection Act” (COPA) was a violation of the First Amendment rights of businesses and individuals to send and receive valuable information. The case is ACLU v. Ashcroft.

Harry Potter and the Censors' Menace

People For the American Way Foundation joined today with the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and other groups to file a brief in federal court in support of parents challenging a school board’s decision to remove all Harry Potter books from the school library shelves. The decision by the Cedarville, Arkansas, school board, which requires written parental permission before students can check out the books, disregarded a 15-0 decision by the board’s Library Committee. The episode was triggered by a parent’s complaint that the books promote witchcraft and sorcery as well as the ideas that “magic will solve your problems” and that “parents/teachers/rules are stupid or something to be ignored.”

First Amendment Victory: FCC Backs Down in Sarah Jones Case

In a case with important First Amendment implications, the Federal Communications Commission has reversed its earlier finding that performance artist Sarah Jones’ “Your Revolution” is indecent. The FCC had declared in May of 2001 that “Your Revolution,” a feminist critique of the frequently offensive treatment of women in popular music, was indecent. The new FCC order acknowledges that declaring “Your Revolution” indecent was a mistake.

Amendment Restricting Total Information Awareness Survives Conference Committee

Bipartisan House and Senate negotiators retained a Senate amendment restricting the data mining activities of the Pentagon’s Office of Total Information Awareness (TIA). The final bill requires Congressional oversight of the program and conditions its funding on actions by the executive branch to protect privacy and monitor the usage of personal information. It also bars deployment of TIA technology without explicit Congressional authorization.

Defense Department’s Self-Evaluation on Total Information Awareness Program No Substitute for Congressional Oversight

The Defense Department announced today that it would establish an internal board and an outside advisory committee to monitor potential threats to individual privacy from the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness Project. While strong internal controls are necessary, they are not a substitute for real congressional oversight, which is fundamental to our constitutional system of checks and balances.

Victory for Civil Liberties on Total Information Awareness

In a bold bipartisan move, the U.S. Senate adopted an amendment that could protect Americans from the broad reach of government data-mining efforts associated with the office of Total Information Awareness.

Homeland Security Act Poses Threat to Government Oversight, Civil Rights and Liberties

With attention largely focused on the adequacy of civil service protections in the Homeland Security Act, several of the massive bill’s provisions that increase government secrecy and reduce accountability went virtually ignored. The new 170,000 employee agency could potentially menace the civil rights and liberties of all Americans.

Fourth Circuit Considers Arguments in Appeal of Judge's Ruling Striking Down Virginia Internet Law

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments October 28th in Richmond concerning the appeal of a ruling that set a strong precedent protecting the freedom of speech on the Internet. That ruling helped to solidify protection of electronic speech as equivalent to the protection of written and oral speech.

Award-Winning Poet Sarah Jones Appeals Procedural Dismissal of Censorship Suit Against FCC

World-renowned playwright, poet and artist Sarah Jones today appealed the dismissal on procedural grounds of her censorship suit against the Federal Communications Commission. The appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was filed by People For the American Way Foundation and prominent New York-based media law firm Frankfurt Garbus Kurnit Klein & Selz. On September 4th, Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York dismissed Jones' lawsuit without reaching the merits of the case. Jones sued the FCC because the commission branded one of her works "indecent." That designation has had a continuing chilling effect on her First Amendment right to free speech.

Judge Dismisses Award-Winning Poet Sarah Jones' Censorship Suit Against FCC on Procedural Grounds

On September 4th, Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York dismissed on procedural grounds Sarah Jones’ lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission. Jones was suing because the FCC branded her work “indecent” in a ruling against a broadcaster, and that designation has had a continuing chilling effect on her First Amendment right to free speech.

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