Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

EEOC sues meatpacker over treatment of Muslims

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

DENVER — Muslim Somali workers at two JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in Colorado and Nebraska face ongoing harassment because of their race and religion, including being prevented from getting a drink at one of the plants after fasting all day during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges.

A lawsuit filed by the EEOC on Aug. 30 in U.S. District Court in Denver alleges JBS officials shut off water fountains at its Greeley meatpacking plant, keeping Muslim Somali workers from getting a drink at sundown.

The suit says the water fountain incident happened in September 2008 and is part of a pattern of religious and racial harassment that continues at the plant. Workers also are denied prayer time and face termination for asking to pray, according to the lawsuit, which names as plaintiffs more than 80 current and former employees.

A second lawsuit filed by the EEOC in U.S. District Court in Omaha, Neb., alleges similar acts at the company’s meatpacking plant in Grand Island, Neb.

Swift officials did not return messages seeking comment in time for this story. Many workers named in the suit could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit ...

N.H. inmate loses facial-hair challenge

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. — A federal judge has ruled that inmates have no First Amendment right to grow a beard, rejecting the claim of an Orthodox Jew who claimed prison policy banning facial hair longer than a quarter-inch violated his constitutional rights.

U.S. District Chief Judge Steven McAuliffe ruled against Albert Kuperman, saying prison officials' concerns about hygiene and security trump inmates' free-expression and religious rights.

McAuliffe acknowledged that Kuperman's religion "requires men to refrain from trimming their beards." But, he ruled, prison officials have valid reasons for requiring that beards be kept to a maximum length of a quarter-inch.

"That length allows correctional officers to identify inmates easily, prevents inmates from hiding contraband and weapons in beards and minimizes the risk that an escaped inmate could quickly change his appearance after an escape," McAuliffe wrote in the Aug. 27 ruling, Kuperman v. Wrenn.

"A grooming policy that allowed full beards, on the other hand, would strain prison resources and/or relations between inmates and staff by requiring the issuance of multiple identification cards and by requiring more frequent inmate searches," the judge wrote.

Kuperman also argued the prison policy violated his equal-protection rights because inmates in high-security housing often have beards ...

For Third Straight Year, FIRE Exposes Worst Abusers of Student and Faculty Rights in ‘U.S. News’ Red Alert Ad

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Once again, FIRE is calling out the worst abusers of student and faculty rights in a very public way.

As today's press release announces, FIRE has placed a full-page advertisement in the 2011 edition of U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges issue, publicly chastising the institutions on our Red Alert list—Bucknell University, Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University—for egregiously violating the rights of their students and faculty. This is the third consecutive year FIRE has publicly criticized Red Alert schools in U.S. News & World Report's college rankings issue, which hits newsstands today. We're also increasing the ad's impact by running large advertisements in the first issue of student newspapers at each of these institutions, warning new students about the repressive culture on campus.

All of the schools on FIRE’s Red Alert list have refused to remedy their own egregious offenses against fundamental rights. Over the next few days here on The Torch, we'll be examining just what each of these schools did to wind up on our Red Alert list--and what they can do to remove themselves. But here's a short round-up from today's press release: 

Bucknell University...

Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on FIRE’s ‘U.S. News’ Ad

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Corresponding with today’s release of our annual U.S. News & World Report ad about the "worst of the worst" colleges for free speech, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has a new article up on The Huffington Post. In his article, Greg discusses the outrageous case of Binghamton University social work master's student Andre Massena, who is featured in FIRE’s ad:

In this age of campus obsession with sensitivity above all else, some of you might think that criticizing a university professor could rightfully land a student in hot water. But colleges and universities must not insulate themselves from serious controversy, hurt feelings, or all the normal abrasions of the serious business of education. Here, a student was exercising his First Amendment right to criticize the university's decision to hire a professor he believed had played a role in kicking poor people out of their homes. For that he was suspended, assigned to confess his sin against the university and to repudiate his deepest belief in justice, and faced with what seemed like an inevitable expulsion. All of this was not only morally wrong but shockingly unconstitutional behavior by the Department of Social Work.

Greg also encourages his readers to learn ...

IFRT Monthly Video Series: Carolyn Caywood on Privacy and Libraries

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) is pleased to present the second video in its monthly series to promote intellectual freedom among ALA members. In this video, IFRT chair Loida Garcia-Febo interviews Carolyn Caywood on the issue of privacy and libraries. Enjoy!

If you have any topics you would like to see featured in upcoming videos, please contact Loida directly at

After Retraction of ‘Media Policy,’ Harvard Med School Updates Faculty Conflict Rules

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Starting in January 2011, Harvard Medical School (HMS) will change how it regulates the nature and extent of medical industry ties among the school's 11,017 faculty members, HMS officials announced in late July. The updated policies, the product of a sustained student-led movement, include a ban on faculty accepting personal gifts from medical companies and a requirement to disclose commercial payments of more than $5,000.

What's notable about these changes, at least from FIRE's vantage point, are not so much the details of the updated HMS conflict-of-interest policies. Rather, the interplay between student activists and HMS administratorsin particular, the seemingly hostile response to student interaction with off-campus mediadeserves a second look.

Pressure for reform began in earnest in 2005, when a group of first-year HMS students found that their professor held a board position on a company whose products (and their benefits) were discussed in class. That the professor's stake in the product was not disclosedand that this did not violate formal HMS policiesled these students, along with like-minded faculty, to organize and advocate for stricter conflict-of-interest rules, The New York Times reported.

As the movement progressed and HMS established a ...

Fire at site of future Tenn. mosque troubles city

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A suspicious fire that damaged construction equipment at the site of a future mosque in Tennessee has some local Muslims worried that their project has been dragged into the national debate surrounding Manhattan’s ground zero.

Authorities told leaders of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro that four pieces of heavy construction equipment on the site were doused with an accelerant and one set ablaze early the morning of Aug. 28. The site is now being patrolled at all hours by the sheriff’s department.

Federal investigators have not ruled it arson, saying only that the fire was being probed and asked the public to call in tips. Eric Kehn, spokesman for the Nashville office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said arson was suspected.

The site has already seen vandalism, said Joel Siskovic, a spokesman for the FBI in the Memphis office. A sign at the site was spray-painted with the words “Not Welcome” and then torn in half. The FBI is investigating the fire in case it is a civil rights violation.

“We want to make sure there are not people acting with the intent to prevent people from exercising their First Amendment rights,” ...

Judge rebuffs Va. official’s demands for university’s records

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. — A judge has set aside two subpoenas for records related to a former University of Virginia professor’s climate-change research, saying the state attorney general has failed so far to spell out what he suspects the professor did wrong.

Retired Albemarle County Circuit Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. determined yesterday that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has the authority to investigate whether researcher Michael Mann defrauded state taxpayers. But Peatross found that Cuccinelli’s demands for Mann’s records fail to spell out the nature of Mann’s alleged wrongdoing.

“What the Attorney General suspects that Dr. Mann did that was false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth is simply not stated,” Peatross said in his ruling.

The ruling left open the door for Cuccinelli to try again, if the new request satisfies the legal requirements.

Mann is one of several climate-change scientists whose work drew international attention earlier this year after of hundreds of e-mails from a British climate research center were leaked. Climate-change skeptics seized on the e-mails and suggested climate scientists were systematically exaggerating the threat of climate change.

Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican and global-warming skeptic, alleges that Mann violated Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act by using ...

Focus on the Family’s New Target: Anti-Bullying Policies

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Maintaining that “activist groups that want to promote homosexuality in kids” seek to violate the “innocence and purity of children,” Focus on the Family has launched the “True Tolerance” campaign to prevent “homosexuals” from capturing “the hearts and minds of our children at their earliest ages.” The Orwellian-named True Tolerance project believes that efforts by school districts to improve safety among their students through enacting anti-bullying policies are actually trying to send a “message about homosexuality — that it's normal and should be embraced.”

According to Focus on the Family, anti-bullying and anti-harassment laws are only meant to produce “special protections” for LGBT students and “reverse discrimination.” The far-right group says that schools should instead “unite around the teachings of our Founding Fathers— in particular, the principle that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with unalienable rights.” However, Focus on the Family believes that the sexual orientation and gender identity of students should determine just how “equal” they are.

Research from GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) shows that the vast majority of LGBT students have experienced verbal harassment in schools, and that 44.1% of LGBT students “reported being physically harassed and ...

FIRE Answers the Most Frequently Asked Questions about ‘Christian Legal Society v. Martinez’

Monday, August 30th, 2010

As colleges and universities across the country begin another academic year, many students, faculty, and administrators are wondering how the United States Supreme Court's June 28 decision (.pdf) in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez will affect their experience on campus. Members of the general public also might be wondering what exactly the Supreme Court decided in Martinez.To help alleviate lingering confusion about what the Court's opinion in Martinez means, FIRE attorneys have prepared answers to the most frequently asked questions about the ruling.

We've aimed to provide thorough explanations to the hard questions about the case, paying special attention to concerns that students, student groups, and administrators might have. We've also tried to dispel the uncertainty about what exactly the Court's ruling does and does not require, and what student groups in particular should look out for when they return to campus. Here's a quick look at some of the questions my colleagues and I have answered:

"What does FIRE think of the Court's decision?"

"This is a case about student groups. What does CLS v. Martinez have to do with free speech?"

"How does FIRE think CLS v. Martinez will impact speech on campus?"

"Does FIRE support public ...

Judge Sets Aside Virginia Attorney General’s University of Virginia Document Demands

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Citing a failure to show "reason to believe" that fraud had occurred at the University of Virginia (UVa), Judge Paul M. Peatross, Jr., has set aside the Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) issued to UVa by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, who has sought a huge swath of UVa documents in order to investigate possible fraud under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA). The sweeping CIDs would have required UVa to find and hand over more than a decade's worth of documents involving dozens of researchers related to former UVa professor Michael Mann and his five UVa-related research grants.

Cuccinelli's initial demands for documents provided no evidence suggesting fraud on the part of Mann, and an extremely troubling precedent would have been set if his demands had gone unchallenged in that form. FIRE thus pushed Cuccinelli to reveal whether he had any basis for his comprehensive demands. Cuccinelli then provided a basis for his demands, and, as we noted in June, it was then up to the court to decide. The court has now decided that Cuccinelli has not shown enough reason to pursue the CIDs.

In his ruling (.pdf), Judge Peatross ruled that the "reason to believe" ...

Reading, Writing, and RFID Chips: A Scary Back-to-School Future in California

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Scary news from California's Contra Costa County — school officials there have reportedly decided to track some preschoolers with RFID chips, thanks to a federal grant supplying the funding.

According to a story from the Associated Press, the students will wear a jersey at school that has the RFID tag attached. The tag will track the children's movements and collect other data, like if the child has eaten or not. According to a Contra Costa County official, this is a cost-savings move, as teachers used to have to manually keep track of a child's attendance and meal schedule.

But of course, an RFID chip allows for far more than that minimal record-keeping. Instead, it provides the potential for nearly constant monitoring of a child's physical location. If readings are taken often enough, you could create an extraordinarily detailed portrait of a child's school day — one that's easy to imagine being misused, particularly as the chips substitute for direct adult monitoring and judgment. If RFID records show a child moving around a lot, could she be tagged as hyper-active? If he doesn't move around a lot, could he get a reputation for laziness? How long will this data and ...

Federal contractor charged with leaking secrets to reporter

Monday, August 30th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has accused an analyst who worked at the State Department of leaking top secret information about North Korea to a reporter.

Steven Kim, who worked at the State Department as an employee of a contractor, maintains his innocence.

He was named in a federal indictment unsealed Aug. 27 and charged with illegally disclosing national defense information, which carries a top penalty of 10 years in prison, and with making false statements to the FBI, which has a maximum five-year sentence.

It was the latest move in an aggressive campaign to crack down on leaks, even as the administration has supported proposed legislation that would shield reporters from having to identify their sources.

Recent disclosures to news media have revealed the potential for using CIA drones in the counterterrorist fight against al-Qaida in Yemen, the close relationship of the CIA station chief in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the CIA's practice of paying some members of the Afghan government for information.

On Aug. 27, the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, sent a memo to members of the 16 intelligence agencies expressing his concern about leaks to the press, saying officials should be ...

Obama protester arrested at Alaska State Fair

Monday, August 30th, 2010

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A supporter of frequent presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche who carried a sign that called for President Barack Obama’s impeachment was handcuffed and arrested at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

A bystander posted video of the incident on YouTube.

Fair officials say Sidney Hill drew complaints Aug. 26 that he was disrupting fair entertainment.

The video shows Hill claiming his free-speech rights were violated. He said he was disabled and that fair security personnel hurt him as they pinned him to the ground.

Fair spokesman Dean Phipps says the fairgrounds are private property and fairgoers are subject to rules. He says excessive force was not used.

Hill was charged with assault, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.

Texas official faces felony charges after releasing jail record

Monday, August 30th, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — The executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards is facing felony charges after angering a south Texas sheriff by releasing information about an inmate who committed suicide, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Adan Munoz Jr. released a jail screening form — designed to identify potentially suicidal prisoners — while an investigation into the death of Samuel Salazar was still open. Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin says the release was a violation of his department’s policy.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Kaelin complained to the jail standards agency’s board. After Munoz was cleared, Kaelin sought to have him charged with two felony counts of misuse of official information, a crime that typically pertains to public servants who use insider government information to benefit themselves, friends or supporters.

Nueces County District Attorney Anna Jimenez presented the case to a grand jury, which returned the indictment on Aug. 20.

Munoz, 62, declined to comment. His attorney said the sheriff was retaliating against Munoz after a commission inspector found problems at the Nueces County Jail.

“He’s taking personal umbrage to, essentially, someone giving him an F as a grade,” said Munoz’s attorney, Rene Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has asked a state district ...

N.J. freeholder advises officials how to skirt open-records laws

Monday, August 30th, 2010

HACKENSACK, N.J. — A freeholder who oversees the taxpayer-financed New Jersey Association of Counties told 22 trustees — most of them elected officials — they could skirt public-records laws with this advice: "Keep these documents solely in your personal possession."

His letter, in an envelope marked "Personal," was mailed to the county offices of 22 government employees: 17 freeholders, two administrators, an executive, a surrogate and a clerk.

It arrived with an accounting firm's analysis that raised a number of concerns about the lobbying group and its nonprofit foundation and a related limited-liability corporation, including an executive's compensation, misstatements on IRS filings and questionable credit-card practices.

"I have been advised by my county counsel that as long (as) you keep these documents solely in your personal possession that they are not subject to (the Open Public Records Act)," wrote Peter Palmer, the Somerset County freeholder who is president of the lobbying association's board of directors. "Of course, if you distribute this information through county communication channels, it is subject to OPRA," he wrote.

Eight months earlier, the association had vowed to act more openly, after some lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie called for reform following articles in The Record about ...

Good News: Security Researcher Released on Bail

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Hari Prasad, the Indian security researcher arrested for allegedly stealing an electronic voting machine, has been released on bail.

Earlier this year, an anonymous source gave the machine to Prasad and a team of researchers, who discovered critical security flaws. Under questioning by authorities last weekend, Prasad refused to divulge the identity of the source who gave them the machine. He was then arrested and reportedly charged with theft and trespass on the theory that he stole the machine himself.

According to the Indian news agency PTI, the magistrate who released Prasad on bail noted that "no offence was disclosed with Hari Prasad's arrest and even if it was assumed that [the electronic voting machine] was stolen it appears that there was no dishonest intention on his part...he was trying to show how [electronic voting] machines can be tampered with."

The court reportedly also asked the Election Commission of India to confirm or disprove Prasad's claim that the country's electronic voting machines can be compromised. If Prasad's claims are false, action could be taken against him, the magistrate said.

Va. attorney general weighs in on holiday displays

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. — Local governments can display religious holiday displays, provided other beliefs are allowed to display their holiday symbols, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote in an advisory opinion.

Cuccinelli publicly released the opinion on Aug. 24, responding to a request by Del. Robert G. Marshall, who asked under what conditions Loudoun County would be permitted to display the "birth of Jesus Christ."

In his response, Cuccinelli said a local government can erect Christmas displays on public property as long as other faiths and beliefs are represented.

"It is further my opinion that displays depicting the birth of Jesus Christ are permissible provided the government ensures appropriate content and context," Cuccinelli wrote to Marshall in an opinion date Aug. 20.

Marshall, R-Prince William, asked Cuccinelli whether localities are compelled to prohibit holiday displays under state laws or the state and federal constitutions.

In an opinion loaded with footnotes, Cuccinelli wrote that Loudoun County "is free to create a nondiscriminatory forum for recognition of holidays, including Christmas, if it makes clear that the county itself is not communicating a religious message."

He said it could achieve that by balancing Christian symbols "with other religious and secular ones in a way that ...

Schools urged to disclose more data on student achievement

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged schools across the country this week to disclose more data on student achievement and teacher effectiveness, saying too much information that would help teachers and parents is being kept out of public view.

Duncan said schools too often aren’t disclosing years of data on student achievement that not only could help parents measure a teacher’s effectiveness, but also would help teachers gain better feedback.

“Too often our systems keep all of our teachers in the dark about the quality of their own work,” Duncan told an audience Aug. 25 at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. “In other fields, we talk about success constantly, with statistics and other measures to prove it. Why, in education, are we scared to talk about what success looks like?”

Duncan, who spoke at a lecture hosted by the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and the Clinton Presidential Library, said his remarks were prompted by a Los Angeles Times series analyzing teacher performance. The newspaper took seven years of student test data from Los Angeles and developed a “value-added” analysis to show which third- through fifth-grade teachers were making the ...

Rights in the News: Third Circuit Gets it on Free Speech, Mississippi Doesn’t

Friday, August 27th, 2010

A pity that the Third Circuit's jurisdiction doesn't extend to the Magnolia State, given the lessons that Mississippi's public collegesstarting with Hinds Community Collegecould stand to learn about the First Amendment. As Jaclyn noted earlier in the week, interest in free speech at Mississippi colleges has branched out from Isaac Rosenbloom's case at HCC to the state's other universities, and the picture is equally dim there. The Bolivar Commercial of Cleveland, Mississippi, was the latest to highlight this issue, taking its cue from Elizabeth Crisp's recent Clarion-Ledger article on the same subject. (That article, as Jaclyn also noted, has been making the rounds nationally).

Contrast that unflattering picture with the wonderful news out of the Third Circuit, which invalidated yet another university speech code in McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands, two years after its landmark ruling in DeJohn v. Temple University. Will Creeley, FIRE's Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, has written an authoritative account on the ruling and its implications for free speech at the legal blog The Legal Satyricon, which I encourage Torch readers to check out.

Today, the Pope Center's Jay Schalin does Davidson College the ...

University of Virginia Revises Troublesome ‘Bias Reporting’ Policy

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Following discussions with FIRE, University of Virginia Dean of Students Allen Groves has revised the university's "bias reporting" policy, which previously infringed on students' right to free speech. FIRE is grateful for Dean Groves' commitment to Virginia students' free speech rights and is happy to report on this exciting development.

The old policy encouraged students to report all "bias complaints," defined as

[A] report of a threat or act of bigotry, harassment or intimidation - verbal, written or physical - which is personally directed against or targets a University of Virginia student because of that student's race, age, color, disability, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or veteran status. (Emphasis added.)

While harassment and intimidation are not protected forms of speech, the fact that speech is bigoted does nothing, in and of itself, to deprive that speech of First Amendment protection. There are many positions on political and social issues that may strike some people as bigoted, and it is essential that these positions are able to be aired and debated in the marketplace of ideas.

Although Virginia's "bias reporting" policy does not form an independent basis for the punishment of speech, the risk ...

So-called ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ — Mayor Bloomberg on Daily Show says it’s all about the elections

Friday, August 27th, 2010

"This is plain and simple people trying to stir up things to get publicity, and trying to polarize people so that they can get some votes." (Discussion of Cordoba House project begins around 2:00 mark.)

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Michael Bloomberg
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

48 Congressional Candidates have signed the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy—Find Out Where Your Candidates Stand

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Last month, we started asking candidates for Congress to sign a pledge to support a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, and stop unlimited corporate spending in elections.

Today, we’re announcing the first batch of signers. 48 House and Senate candidates from across the country have signed the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy—you can find out who’s signed, who’s refused and who’s on the fence using our handy candidate map. Then you can call the candidates in your state who haven’t signed yet and urge them to fight against corporate influence in elections.

Public Citizen, our partner in the campaign, put together this video about the pledge and why it matters:

Virginia ACLU Petitions Supreme Court to Overturn Restrictions on Alcohol Advertising

Friday, August 27th, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has filed a petition asking the United States Supreme Court to review a recent decision by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit allowing for the restriction of alcohol-related advertisements in collegiate newspapers. The ACLU of Virginia, which filed the petition (.pdf) on Monday, is challenging the Fourth Circuit's decision (.pdf) in Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech v. Swecker on behalf of The Collegiate Times and The Cavalier Daily, student newspapers at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, respectively.

The Times and the Daily have challenged this regulationinstituted by Virginia's Alcoholic Beverage Control Boardsuccessfully before. In 2008, a federal district court ruled that the ban was a violation of the papers' rights. This past April, however, the Fourth Circuit overturned the lower court's decision (in a three-judge panel, with one dissenter), citing a supposed link between reductions in alcohol-related advertising aimed in part at under-21 students and reduced underage binge drinking on college campuses. As the ACLU's press release puts it:

[T]he Fourth Circuit concluded that there was a "common sense" link between alcohol advertising bans in college papers and a decrease in demand for ...

Colbert’s Word: Control-Self-Delete

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Just a few weeks after his interview with EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn, American hero Stephen Colbert has returned to the subject of digital rights. And in his show on Tuesday, he came up with a great solution to the problem of privacy and online social networks: Control-Self-Delete.

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Control-Self-Delete
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

As Colbert suggests, the CEOs of Google and Facebook can be astonishingly tone deaf when it comes to the question of the privacy of their customers. As these experts in social media ought to know, the fact that a person chooses to share some information about themselves online is no indication that they prefer to share everything — nor does it indicate that control of personal data is not something they care deeply about. ">Study after study has shown the opposite to be true: users care about privacy, and demand control of their own data.

We like Colbert's basic point, saved for the end of this clip: if anyone should change their behavior to address the problem of online privacy, it isn't young people who have uploaded some racy pics ...

Sotomayor: Free speech vs. security likely to come before Court

Friday, August 27th, 2010

DENVER — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said yesterday that the nation's high court likely would be asked again to weigh issues of national security versus free speech because of the recently leaked classified war documents posted on the WikiLeaks website.

Sotomayor told high school and college students at the University of Denver that she couldn't answer a student query about the security questions and free speech because "that question is very likely to come before me."

The release of the WikiLeaks documents, which included names of Afghans working with American forces, has been blasted by the Pentagon. It said the publication of those documents put lives at risk, while WikiLeaks insisted the website provides a public service for whistleblowers.

Sotomayor said yesterday that the "incident, and others, are going to provoke legislation that's already being discussed in Congress, and so some of it is going to come up before (the Supreme Court)."

She added that the balance between national security and free speech is "a constant struggle in this society, between our security needs and our First Amendment rights, and one that has existed throughout our history."

Sotomayor compared the current question to the debate over allowing publication of ...

FCC asks 2nd Circuit to review fleeting-expletives ruling

Friday, August 27th, 2010

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators are appealing a recent court decision that struck down a 2004 government policy that says broadcasters can be fined for allowing even a single curse word on live television.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York threw out the Federal Communications Commission policy last month, saying it was unconstitutionally vague and left broadcasters uncertain of what programming the agency will find offensive.

The FCC and the Justice Department asked the court yesterday to reconsider that decision, warning that the ruling appears to invalidate the FCC’s entire approach to regulating indecency over the airwaves. In a statement, FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick said the ruling raised “serious concerns about the commission’s ability to protect children and families from indecent broadcast programming.”

The FCC wants the three-judge panel or the full court to reconsider the decision.

The commission has stepped up broadcast indecency enforcement in recent years — issuing record fines for violations — spurred in part by widespread public outrage following Janet Jackson’s breast-baring performance during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

The agency also put its so-called “fleeting expletive” policy in place in 2004 after U2 lead singer Bono ...

Judge to EPA: Stop destroying records Union Pacific wants

Friday, August 27th, 2010

OMAHA, Neb. — A federal judge ordered the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday to stop destroying records Union Pacific requested about lead contamination in Omaha. An expert was appointed to make sure the agency complies.

The judge's order resolved several issues the railroad and EPA couldn't agree on when discussing the rules to protect records while Union Pacific's lawsuit progresses. The Omaha-based railroad sued in June after obtaining e-mails in which EPA officials discussed deleting records.

U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp picked the records expert EPA lawyers recommended, but she established a broad scope for the expert's work, as the railroad requested. Camp also ordered the EPA not to reuse any of its backup tapes until the expert had reviewed the agency's plan to protect relevant data.

The information Union Pacific seeks relates to 5,600 lead-contaminated properties in Omaha. The EPA and Union Pacific have been trying for years to settle who should pay more than $200 million to clean up the lead. The EPA and the railroad disagree about the contamination's source, with the EPA blaming industrial sources of lead and Union Pacific arguing lead house paint is the real problem.

Railroad officials hope the records they are requesting ...

Facebook Should Stop Censoring Marijuana Legalization Campaign Ads

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Facebook is facing down another embarrassing episode of censorship this week after refusing to show ads submitted by the Just Say Now marijuana legalization campaign. The gag is an important reminder that social networks like Facebook — while useful, interesting, and pretty — are "walled gardens" with overseers whose interests can overwrite free speech, open communication, and in this case, essential political debate. (In this they have something in common with Apple.)

Most recently, Facebook was caught censoring mentions of, an online tool designed to help users collect their information from Facebook to facilitate migration to other social networks. To this day, users are still blocked from sending messages or posting status updates containing the word "," preventing users from spreading the word about a convenient way to "make the move" to Orkut, or LinkedIn, or any other social networking service that may crop up to compete. The block even stopped law professor Eric Goldman from commenting on Facebook’s lawsuit against (Disclosure: EFF filed an amicus brief in support of Power in that case).

Facebook's censorship for anticompetitive reasons is petty and lame to be sure, but silencing Just Say Now's marijuana legalization ad campaign is even ...

FIRE’s California Happy Hour with Comedian Larry Miller, Advice Goddess Amy Alkon, and the Reason Foundation

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

On Wednesday, September 15, at 7 PM, FIRE will be hosting a happy hour in Culver City, CAjust outside of Los Angeles. The party will be co-hosted by the Reason Foundation and Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess.

Comedian Larry Miller

The evening will also feature a special guest: actor and comedian Larry Miller. Larry Miller has appeared in more than 100 movies and television shows including Pretty Woman, Best in Show, Seinfeld, The Princess Diaries, and Desperate Housewives. We are thrilled that he will be joining us and treating our guests to some of his brilliant stand-up.

Fun will be had by all, so don't miss out! If you're in the LA area, join us and your fellow liberty-loving friends at Rush Street in Culver City for some laughs and thoughtful conversation. You can find event details here. If you plan to attend, please e-mail We hope to see you there!

Third Annual ‘Freedom In Academia’ Scholarship Contest Now Accepting Submissions

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

FIRE is pleased to announce its Third Annual "Freedom in Academia" Essay Contest.

FIRE's mission states in part that we exist "to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to rights on our campuses." For this purpose, high school students from across the country who will be graduating in 2011 and attending college the following fall are invited to write an in-depth essay explaining why free speech and First Amendment rights are crucial to higher education and how abuses of these rights are contrary to the purpose of a university education. Last year's contest was a huge success, garnering 2,700 essay submissions from students across the country. Read the winning essays here.

Students are asked to watch two short FIRE documentaries: Political Correctness vs. Freedom of Thought - The Keith John Sampson Story and Think What We Think...Or Else: Thought Control on the American Campus. Students will see how university administrators at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Delaware stifled the constitutional rights of their students to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. Students should read FIRE's mission, watch FIRE's other videos, and read posts on The Torch to ...

When Will it Stop Being Cool to Be an Anti-Gay Republican?

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Last night, Ken Mehlman, the man who orchestrated George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign--including, we can presume, its electorally popular anti-gay positions--came out as gay himself. Mehlman says he’s now working with American Foundation for Equal Rights to advocate for marriage equality.

The National Organization for Marriage immediately attacked Mehlman for “abdicating core Republican values.” But mainstream Republicans, whose bread and butter in recent years has relied on stoking anti-gay resentments, have been for the most part supportive of Mehlman personally and silent on his new advocacy work.

That’s not surprising. Earlier this week, People For’s president, Michael B. Keegan, wrote a piece in the Huffington Post on how anti-gay politics are increasingly confined to the Republican party’s extreme-right fringe…and the fringe is beginning to see the writing on the wall:

For years, the Right has watched its anti-gay agenda lose credibility as public acceptance of gays and lesbians has steadily grown and intolerance has declined. And that trend is going strong, as young people of all political stripes are more likely to know gay people and more willing to grant them equal rights and opportunities, including the right to marriage. A CNN poll this month found that ...

Calif. university ordered to release Palin records, group says

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A group that sued over documents related to a fundraiser appearance by Sarah Palin at a California university claimed victory yesterday in a judge’s ruling.

The open-government group Californians Aware said it received a ruling in the mail by Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne ordering California State University, Stanislaus to release Palin’s contract along with any documents related to the use of university property or services during her June 25 visit.

The judge determined the university’s failure to produce the requested documents constituted a violation of its obligations under the California Public Records Act, CalAware said in a news release.

“This ruling upholds California citizens’ right to maintain oversight and control of their government,” CalAware said.

CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith said yesterday the university had not yet seen the ruling.

“If it is as it has been relayed to me, it’s certainly perplexing how the judge could come to that decision,” she said. “But if that’s what it says, we would abide by that.”

CalAware filed a lawsuit in April after CSU Stanislaus refused to disclose the details of Palin’s contract.

The university has said negotiations with Palin were handled by its nonprofit foundation, which ...

New ‘I Believe’ license plates may fly in S.C.

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina drivers might be able to buy a license plate with the words "I Believe" and three crosses, despite a federal judge's ruling against a previous attempt to make similar tags.

Nine months after a federal judge barred the state from making legislatively approved plates with the religious message, Attorney General Henry McMaster says a similar plate designed by a nonprofit group is legal. The plate under review at the Department of Motor Vehicles reads along the top. It features a golden sunrise and, on the left, three crosses symbolizing the site where Jesus was crucified.

The nonprofit group applied for the plates in February under state law that allows private groups to create specialty plates, if they pay a $4,000 deposit or collect at least 400 prepaid orders before production. It officially changed its name to the website address, in hopes of meeting new DMV rules that require tags bear the sponsoring group's name.

"The specialty license program has a secular purpose — allowing all nonprofit organizations to identify themselves by a logo or symbol," McMaster wrote in his Aug. 16 opinion. "It is our opinion that the Establishment Clause would not be violated ...

Western Ky. town rejects Somali mosque plan

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

MAYFIELD, Ky. — A western Kentucky city has rejected a petition by a group of Somalis to build a mosque.

The Mayfield Board of Zoning Adjustment cited a lack of parking as the reason for the Aug. 24 decision. The Paducah Sun reported more than 250 residents who attended the meeting cheered the decision.

Board member Don Simpkins said previous permits had been issued for churches in the area, but services there were usually limited to Sundays and evenings on Wednesday. He said Muslims generally pray throughout the business day and week.

City Planner Brad Rodgers said the Somali group could appeal the decision to circuit court or could petition to open a mosque at a shopping center with more parking.

Jeff Keith, youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Mayfield, said he hoped a solution could be found because he didn't want the Somalis to feel unwelcome.

NFL cheerleader wins $11 million libel suit

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A gossip website has been hit with an $11 million judgment for libel and slander after posting false accusations about a northern Kentucky teacher who sidelines as a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader.

The judgment against Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, which runs the site, came yesterday after the site declined to answer a lawsuit brought by Sarah Jones. The high school teacher filed suit after her picture was posted on the site along with an accusation she had been exposed to two venereal diseases.

As of this morning, the accusation remained on the Web site.

U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman added an annual interest rate of 0.25%t to the $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

An e-mail message sent to the operator of the Arizona-based website, Hooman Karamian, who uses the online name "Nik Ritchie," was not returned in time for this story.

The Lingering Injustice of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

The Don’t Ask, Don’t tell policy has been denounced by a vast majority of Americans, rejected by the leaders of the military, and, if Republicans decide not to filibuster, will be finally on its way out in this year’s Defense Authorization bill. But, for now, the policy is still driving talented and dedicated Americans away from serving in the armed forces.

The New York Times yesterday interviewed several gay and lesbian current and former West Point cadets on the pressures of serving their country while hiding their identities. Katherine Miller is a 20-year-old cadet who left West Point this month after two years of being unable to follow both the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and the Cadet Honor Code to “not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.”

“It was a whirlpool of lies — I was violating the honor code every time I socialized,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Miller, who ranked 17th in her West Point class, wrote in her Aug. 9 resignation letter: “I have lied to my classmates and compromised my integrity and my identity by adhering to existing military policy. I am unwilling to suppress an entire portion of my identity any ...

Tea Party Candidate Ken Buck Leading in CO-Senate

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Ken Buck, one of a handful of Senate candidates this year riding a wave of Tea Party support to victory in his Republican primary, is no stranger to extremism. Yet the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll in Colorado shows him leading Sen. Michael Bennet (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 49% to 40%.

It's still early and poll numbers are changing daily, but these latest results are all the more reason why it's important for the public to know that Buck, while running in his primary:

  • said voters should pick him because he does not "wear high heels" (his primary opponent was a woman),
  • said of Social Security and Medicare, "the idea that the federal government should be running healthcare or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe and that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better," and
  • questioned the constitutionality of Social Security, displaying a flawed Tea Party-understanding of the Constitution that even former Bush speech writer and conservative Washington Post op-ed columnist Michael Gerson thinks is scary and could be "toxic" for the GOP.

Buck also called the "progressive liberal movement" is the "largest threat" to the country, saying it poses ...

Musopen Wants to Give Classical Music to the Public Domain

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Music lovers take note: the classical music archive Musopen needs your help to liberate some classic symphonies from copyright entanglement. Museopen is looking to solve a difficult problem: while symphonies written by Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky are in the public domain, many modern arrangements and sound recordings of those works are copyrighted. That means that even after purchasing a CD or collection of MP3s of this music, you may not be able to freely exercise all the rights you'd associate with works in the public domain, like sharing the music using a peer-to-peer network or using the music in a film project.

To fix this, Musopen is asking backers to join an effort to hire a world-class orchestra to record sublime digital performances of the symphonies by the composers mentioned above. Musopen will then relinquish all rights to the recordings, giving the public the freedom to experience these works in full: to download, share, derive, and remix without limit. The fundraising campaign is taking place on Kickstarter, a site where users can pledge money to various creative projects. (Users pledge an amount towards a project, but the money doesn't actually go to the project unless the specified funding ...

EFF’s Cindy Cohn Wins IP Vanguard Award from State Bar of California

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

We're pleased to announce that EFF's Legal Director, Cindy Cohn, has won a 2010 Intellectual Property Institute Vanguard Award from the State Bar of California.

Cindy was one of four legal professionals honored for spearheading new developments in the world of intellectual property. We're proud to see the work that we do to preserve balance in copyright, trademark, and patent law recognized, and we'll continue to fight for the fans, the tinkerers, independent journalists and bloggers, and consumers.

The 2nd Annual IP Vanguard Award will be presented to Cindy during an awards Luncheon on Friday, October 29, at the 2010 Annual IP Institute meeting in Napa, California.

The Long-Term Consequences of Hateful Politics

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Suhail A. Khan, who served as a liaison to faith communities in George W. Bush’s White House, writes this week in Foreign Policy that he finds himself increasingly alone as a Muslim Republican. Many American Muslims have conservative values, Khan writes, but the GOP won’t win their support “until the party finds leadership willing to stop playing to the worst instincts of its minority of bigoted supporters”:

In recent weeks, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and other prominent Republicans have loudly voiced their opposition to the proposed Cordoba House project near ground zero in lower Manhattan, fanning the flames of a protest that has since spread into a more generalized criticism of Muslim institutions in the United States. But even before this month's controversy, the exodus of Muslim Americans from the Republican Party was nearly complete. In 2008, this country's more than 7 million Muslims voted in record numbers, and nearly 90 percent of their votes went to Obama.

It wasn't always this way. Muslim Americans are, by and large, both socially and economically conservative. Sixty-one percent of them would ban abortion except to save the life of the mother; 84 percent support school choice. Muslims overwhelmingly support traditional marriage. More ...

EFF Seeks to Help Righthaven Defendants

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking to assist defendants in the Righthaven copyright troll lawsuits. Righthaven, founded in March of 2010, files hundreds of copyright infringement lawsuits on behalf of newspaper publishers against bloggers who make use of news content without permission. To that end, Righthaven searches the internet for stories and parts of stories from the newspapers that they represent. Once they find content that has been re-published, Righthaven purchases the copyright to the article and sues the owner of the blog.

Just like the US Copyright Group shakedowns, and the RIAA shakedowns of the recent past, Righthaven relies on the threat of enormous statutory damages associated with the Copyright Act to scare defendants, often individual bloggers operating non-commercial websites, into a quick settlement, reportedly ranging from two to five thousand dollars. The Righthaven lawsuits are of particular concern because they sometimes target the operators of political websites who re-publish newspaper stories, chilling political speech. Righthaven has also targeted the newspaper's source for the very articles allegedly infringed.

If you are the target for a Righthaven lawsuit in need of representation, please contact Eva Galperin at Please understand that we have a relatively small number of ...

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Having a Sadly Unsurprising Effect

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

From TPM:

The New York Police Department has confirmed to TPM that a cab driver in Manhttan was allegedly stabbed by a passenger who asked if the cabbie was Muslim, and says the incident is being treated as a hate crime. The suspect has been charged with attempted murder and other crimes.

Unfortunately, hateful rhetoric leading to violence is all too common and does not come as a shock. Let's hope that as the Right ratchets up the hate leading up to November's elections, the violence does not become widespread.

Read PFAW's statement on the Muslim community center in lower Manhattan.

UPDATE: The stabbing victim has issued a statement (article contains description of the attack) through the NYC taxi union.

"I have been here more than 25 years," Ahmed H. Sharif said in a statement. "I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years. All my four kids were born here. I never feel this hopeless and insecure before. Right now, the public sentiment is very serious (because of the Ground Zero Mosque debate.) All drivers should be more careful."

"While a minority of has-been politicians spew ignorance and fear, it's the working person on the street who has to face ...

More Public Scrutiny of Mississippi Speech Codes in the Wake of Hinds Case

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Nearly a month after FIRE's victory at Hinds Community College, the case is still reverberating in news coverage across the country.

Locally, The Bolivar Commercial of Cleveland, Mississippi, published a biting editorial condemning Hinds and other Mississippi colleges for violating students' First Amendment rights. The editorial was also reprinted in the Hattiesburg American (Hattiesburg, Mississippi). It opens:

Schools need to learn that all America is a free-speech zone.

Let's see if we got this straight. Mississippi's universities and colleges teach the principles of American government, don't they?

Well then, why don't they realize that freedom of speech is a basic right that belongs to everybodyeven the lowliest freshmen on their campuses.

See, it says right here in the very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that government shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. And as the late Justice Hugo Black once explained to those who are rather dense, "No means no."

So then what is it our erudite institutions of higher learning don't understand about the word "no"the "n" or the "o"?

In addition to the Hinds case, The Bolivar Commercial highlights absurd policies at other schools, including Jackson State University and ...

Commentary: Trying to exclude WikiLeaks from shield law stinks

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010


One of the odors emanating from Washington, D.C., these days is from journalists marking their territory.

Whatever awkwardness previously existed as journalists desiring a federal shield law wooed the legislators they’re supposed to be watching, it’s now worse. In recent weeks, the two groups have publicly joined forces to exclude WikiLeaks from possible protection under the bill. In doing so, journalists have managed both to look territorial and to endanger the independence they’re striving to create.

Read the rest of Douglas Lee’s commentary.

‘Christian Legal Society v. Martinez’ Update: On Remand, Ninth Circuit Considers Whether to Address CLS’ Claim of Pretext

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

As we detailed last month, the Supreme Court issued a disappointing but narrow ruling in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The Court held that public universities may require student organizations to accept all students as voting members and allow all members to run for leadership positions, regardless of whether these students share the group's core beliefs. The majority opinion's reasoning hinged on the fact that the so-called "all-comers" policy was viewpoint neutral-in other words, that it applied to all student organizations regardless of their views. This principle of viewpoint neutrality was crucial to the Court's determination that the all-comers policy implemented by the University of California Hastings College of the Law (Hastings) did not violate the Christian Legal Society's freedom of expressive association.

In the lower courts and before the Supreme Court, however, the Christian Legal Society (CLS) argued that Hastings was enforcing this policy selectively to interfere with CLS' ability to express its viewpoint. CLS believed that the all-comers policy was a mere pretext for forcing it to accept those who did not adhere to its views on Christianity and sexual relations, and argued that other student groups, such as the Hastings Democratic Caucus, continued to exclude students ...

Campus newspapers ask high court to overturn alcohol-ad ban

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. — The ACLU of Virginia has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court ruling that upholds a ban on alcohol advertising in Virginia's college newspapers.

In a 2-1 ruling in April, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission ban is a minimally restrictive approach to combat problem drinking.

On Aug. 23, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition asking the high court to review the ruling. The ACLU says the ban isn't constitutional because there is no proof it diminishes underage or binge drinking on campus.

"College students are bombarded with alcohol ads every day — on television, on the radio, on the Internet, on T-shirts, on baseball caps, and in magazines," said Rebecca Glenberg, an ACLU of Virginia attorney who argued the case. "There is no reason to believe that banning the small fraction of these ads that appear in college newspapers has any impact on student behavior."

The ban prohibits advertising of beer, wine and mixed drinks in college student publications unless in advertisements for dining establishments. It also bans the phrase "happy hour" and references to specific mixed drinks.


Railroad worries EPA will keep destroying records

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

OMAHA, Neb. — The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to stop destroying records Union Pacific requested about lead contamination in Omaha, but the railroad worries the federal agency won't protect all relevant information.

Documents filed yesterday show Union Pacific Corp. and the EPA agreed on most aspects of a preliminary injunction, but the railroad wants a federal judge to order a broad definition of what kinds of records should be preserved.

The EPA and Union Pacific have been trying for years to settle who should pay more than $200 million to clean up 5,600 lead-contaminated properties in Omaha. The EPA and the railroad disagree about the contamination's source, and railroad officials hope the records they are requesting will help prove that Union Pacific isn't responsible for the contamination.

Union Pacific sued in June after obtaining e-mails in which EPA officials discussed deleting records. Union Pacific lawyers say in court documents that they worry the EPA isn't doing enough to protect records because the agency is interpreting the court orders not to destroy anything very narrowly.

EPA officials were not available yesterday afternoon to discuss the case.

In Union Pacific's lawsuit, the railroad cited several e-mails in which an EPA supervisor ...

Calif. televangelist can sue ABC for defamation, 9th Circuit says

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated a televangelist’s defamation lawsuit claiming ABC’s “20/20” news program used a fictionalized sermon in which he portrayed himself as a wealthy braggart out of context.

A trial court judge had earlier tossed out the lawsuit filed by the Rev. Frederick Price, ruling that the video apparently showing the founder of the Crenshaw Christian Center boast about his wealth didn’t leave the audience with the wrong impression of the preacher: Price is wealthy and he does boast, going as far as calling himself a “prophet of prosperity.”

But the problem for ABC is that the clip of Price it aired was actually a sermon on greed in which the preacher slips into the role of a fictional character who is wealthy but unhappy.

“I live in a 25-room mansion,” television viewers saw Price preach. “I have my own $6 million yacht. I have my own private jet, and I have my own helicopter, and I have seven luxury automobiles.”

Because none of that was true but was presented as fact, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in Price v. Stossel, ordered the trial court to ...

Ohio activist challenges Tenn. open-records law

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Midwest director of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network is suing the state of Tennessee after he was denied access to public records because he is not a resident of the state.

A lawsuit filed yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee on behalf of Richard Jones claims the state's Open Records Act violates the privileges and immunities clause of the U.S. Constitution, which "prevents a state from discriminating against citizens of other states in favor of its own."

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville, also claims the state law violates the commerce clause of the Constitution.

The suit came after Jones, a resident of Solon, Ohio, was denied a copy of the December 2008 winning bid for a lobbyist job for the city of Memphis.

The city's response, quoted in the lawsuit, reads, in part, "Since it does not appear that you are a Tennessee resident, I must deny your request." It cites Tennessee's Open Records Act, which states, "All state county and municipal records ... shall at all times, during business hours, be open for public inspection by any citizen of Tennessee."

Jones says he wants a copy ...