First Five Newsletter: August 22, 2019

First Five
Religious beliefs in the workplace, suspended social media disinformation campaign and more.

First Five Column

Lata Nott reflects on the Department of Labor’s recent proposed rule to allow federal government contractors to make job decisions based on religious beliefs, expanding the scope of the exemption to bolster one aspect of religious freedom while underminig another. Read the column. A plain text version is available here.


Public school students in Louisiana and South Dakota will see the motto “In God We Trust” when they return to class this year, in accordance with laws recently passed in both states. These laws have started a national debate about religion in schools and has received push back from some organizations, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation.


Twitter and Facebook have suspended numerous accounts believed tied to a state-backed disinformation campaign originating from inside China against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Twitter also announced it will no longer accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities, but has clarified this policy doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded groups such as independent public broadcasters.


In a significant First Amendment win, the Tennessee Court of Appeals on Friday ruled the state wrongly kept routine public records from multiple agencies secret. The court embraced and strengthened the state’s public records laws and said public documents stay public even when they are ensnared in an ongoing criminal investigation.


A study from Ohio State University comparing different ways of flagging inaccurate social media content found that labeling an article “satire” was uniquely effective. Users were less likely to believe stories labeled as satire, were less likely to share them and saw the source as less credible.


Freedom Forum Institute President Gene Policinski writes that the First Amendment protects us from government efforts to silence us because of the content or viewpoint of our speech – and that President Trump violated that protection with encouragement of Israel’s decision to block a planned visit by two U.S. Congress members because of their anti-Israel views. “When the elected chief of our government encourages, endorses and incites an international power — or anyone, anywhere for that matter — to punish Americans for exercising First Amendment freedoms, we ought to object, if not on behalf of Tlaib and Omar, but for ourselves…”

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