First Five Newsletter: August 1, 2019

First Five
Dismissed lawsuit against the Post, Google’s “election interference,” research survey on religious knowledge and more.

First Five Column

Benjamin Marcus takes a look at a recent Pew Research Center survey about religious knowledge. Americans lack content knowledge about religion, especially scripture and doctrine. But what do they know about religion?” Read the column. A plain text version is available for publishers. A plain text version is available here.

News

A federal judge in Kentucky dismissed Covington High School student Nicholas Sandmann’s $250 million defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post. Sandmann filed the lawsuit over the publication’s coverage of a viral video of his interaction with Native American activist Nathan Phillips at a March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., that provoked online accusations of bigotry against him. The judge who oversaw the case said in his dismissal, “The court accepts Sandmann’s statement that, when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation and not to impede or block anyone. However, Phillips did not see it that way. He concluded that he was being ‘blocked’ and not allowed to ‘retreat.’ He passed these conclusions on to the Post. They may have been erroneous, but as discussed above, they are opinion protected by the First Amendment. And the Post is not liable for publishing these opinions.”

Technology

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard announced that she is suing Google for “election interference.” Gabbard alleges that the company unconstitutionally censored her by suspending her campaign’s Google Ads account following the first Democratic primary debate and stated that the dominance of big-tech companies over public discourse “… is a threat to free speech, fair elections and to our democracy and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans.”

Law

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Tofurky are challenging an Arkansas law going into effect this month that penalizes companies for using “misleading” words including “meat” or “milk” to label plant-based alternatives to animal and grain products. For example, labels like “almond milk” or “vegan bacon” would be prohibited. The plaintiffs assert that the law violates the First Amendment rights of plant-based manufacturers and is an attempt by the Arkansas state government to bolster the state’s beef industry while restricting access to “healthier, more sustainable food choices.”

Scholarship

The Michigan State International Law Review recently released a paper discussing the First Amendment rights of non-citizens in the United States within the context of foreign tourists’ stadium speech rights at American sporting events. The U.S. will host the 2026 World Cup.

Commentary

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, writing for Reason magazine, discusses the importance of protecting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to preserve free expression online in the wake of attacks on the provision from both the left and the right.


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