December 2, 2006

The "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case.

Everyone's going to want to talk about the new Supreme Court case, because it's amusing to say "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Oh, maybe not everyone. It must deeply pain some people to say or hear the words "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," and it troubles them all the more that some otherwise halfway respectable folks think it's amusing to say "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Some of them will be upset by the "Bong Hits" part. Drug use is not funny. Some will be upset by the word "Jesus." Sacrilege! And some -- you know the type -- experience "4" for "for" as if they were hearing fingernails on the blackboard.

Indeed, the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is a good test of human sensitivity: The unamused folk represent four classic categories of conservatives. There are two types who who bridle at "Bong Hits": 1. people who want to control the manner and extent to which other people have fun and 2. people who are dedicated to the proposition that the law -- whatever it is -- must be followed. Those who don't like the use of "Jesus" are the sort who hear blasphemy in every "Omigod." Their minds don't go to a fun place when you quote words that are to you mere foolery. And then there are the pedants and spelling sticklers who are on guard about the degradation of language. What with Prince and text messaging and who knows what else, our language is under attack.

So now we have this phrase -- Bong Hits 4 Jesus! -- which enters the lofty annals of First Amendment law. Maybe it goes at the top of the list -- ousting "F**k the draft" -- of great phrases in the history of free speech litigation.

And how cool it is now to be Joseph Frederick, the student who got suspended from high school after he unfurled a 20-foot banner as the Olympic Torch Relay that passed through Juneau in 2002. (He displayed his words on the public street, not at school. The students had been released from school to go watch the spectacle.) Whether he wins or loses his case -- he sued the principal, Deborah Morse, for damages -- his name and his gloriously silly phrase will be inscribed in the constitutional case law forever. Some day he'll go to law school, I bet, and everyone will point and stare. He'll be a big law celebrity: It's the Bong Hits 4 Jesus guy!

48 comments:

David said...

I think JESUS and the courts would both support the qualified immunity argument invoked in this case for the principal.

If this moron wants to broadcast that he and his friends are pot smokers they are making a case for the local vice squad and teaching the rest of us that smoking pot does not make you smarter.

I wonder what the parents of 'bong breath' have to say about this!

JohnF said...

You left out the people who don't like being given the finger by kids.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the goal is to find a plausible-sounding legal way to stand up for everything America means: not experiencing pleasure, Jesus, and long-established linguistic convention. And not being allowed to say things that show how much you love harmless pleasure and hate Jesus. Also, Jesus. God bless Jesus. Also, America.

bearbee said...

What is the meaning of "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"? Why not "Bong Hits 4 Buddha/Mohammad/Whoever"? Does it 'discriminate' for or against Christians? Maybe someone can sue because it 'discriminates' for or against Christians.

Just askin'....

Gahrie said...

There is no way the school principal should have gotten involved in this.

That said, the neighbors should have dragged this kid home by his ear, and his parents should have beat the tar out of him.

The kid was being rude and dirsruptive...things that used to be handled by social sanction, neighbors and parenting...not the Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

There's a icon of Jesus that's popular on waggish places like Fark. They have a name for it but I don't remember it. It's your straightforward Jesus in a robe and sandals, but he's winking and he's got a car salesman smile, and he's giving a tremendous, arm's length thumbs up with on hand.

I think they mean it to be as disrespectful as possible. It's like a Bob's Big Boy statue.

The funny thing is, it's as pleasant as can be. The icon of Jesus is very malleable.

The kid's trying to get a rise out of everybody. He's succeeded. It's the tort equivalent of running out in front of car after car until one hits you and you can sue.

Bong hits 4 Jesus. You know, Jesus can take it. The weinie with the sign can't.

Fritz said...

Jesus is the only reason the Ninth took this case, pure activism. The Ninth will be over-turned. Frederick was on what can be treated as a school field trip, under the authority of the school, no First Amendment issue.


The reporter wrote: As in the case the justices heard on Wednesday on the administration’s refusal to regulate automobile emissions that contribute to climate change, the question in the White House case is the technical one of “standing to sue.”

Refusal and the certainty of contribution to climate change ? Reading the oral arguments in this case, the plaintiff failed to show legislative language requiring the EPA to regulate CO2 emissions relating to climate change. The FDA's attempts during the Clinton Administration to regulate tobacco use is a similar over reach by an agency. If the EPA were to regulate CO2 emissions for climate change, automakers would be the plaintiffs in this case.

Joe R. said...

They have a name for it but I don't remember it. It's your straightforward Jesus in a robe and sandals, but he's winking and he's got a car salesman smile, and he's giving a tremendous, arm's length thumbs up with on hand.
Buddy Christ
The Catholic student group at my previous university used it whenever they were advertising social events.

Ann Althouse said...

The principal suspended the kid for 10 days for speech on the public street. That is not acceptable. Whether the kid was stupid or rude is irrelevant.

Gerry said...

"Indeed, the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is a good test of human sensitivity: The unamused folk represent four classic categories of conservatives."

Hm. I don't find it unamusing at all. I would if my kid was wearing it, or any kids for that matter. Beyond that, I do not have any problem with it at all.

Fritz said...

Ann you are wrong. This was a school activity. Prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

joe- Yes, that's it.

I missed all the entertainments mentioned in the wiki.

Bissage said...

I don’t see too much of a difference between this and this.

Count me among the mildly amused.

Gerry said...

If Fritz is right, then I tend to agree with him. School activity, Principal can suspend according to the school's policy. Non-school activity, then he could not. That, to me, sounds like a common-sense approach.

Leave it to the people to decide if the Principal's conduct is contrary to their values. The people elect the school board, and the school board can change the policy and/or administration of the school. Let the public decide the standards for conduct in the public schools-- and the activities of the public schools.

Fritz said...

Gerry, thank you. If the kid had put up a banner that said "Castro Sucks" and the principal took it down, the Ninth would be defending the principal's actions.

Paddy O. said...

Among the many activities over the centuries justified as being for Jesus:

"Kill the Jews for Jesus!"

"Shut up the women for Jesus!"

"Build insanely extravagant buildings for Jesus!"

"Don't tell anyone what I did to you for Jesus!"

"Support my fanatic quest for unimpeachable power for Jesus!"

"Burn those I disagree with on matters of minutiae for Jesus!"

This seems to be rather mild, though not within the safe grounds of tacky Christian kitsch.

Of course, some folks will never be pleased, as Luke 7:31-35 says:

"To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.' For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, "He has a demon'; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors, potheads and sinners!' Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children."

Which is another way of saying Jesus himself was a test of human sensitivity. Jesus likely would have laughed with the kid, become great friends, hung out all the time, gotten the kid off pot, and into street evangelism of another sort, and saved his harshest words for those who brought the lawsuit.

But, Jesus was, and is, inconvenient in that way.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerry: I didn't mean to say there are only these four types of conservatives.

Fritz: "Prove me wrong." From the 9th Circuit opinion:

"Frederick says (without contradiction) that he had not gone to school that day prior to the banner display, that the banner display was off school property across Glacier Avenue from the campus, and that there were a lot of people, students and non-students, there to watch the torch pass. Other students filed affidavits saying that they were just released, not required to stay together or with their teachers, except for the gym class, and school administrators did not attempt to stop students who got bored and left."

Anonymous said...

OK, as a Christian, born again bonafide, I found the Jesus and sports figures much more offensive than the Bong Hits 4 Jesus sign.

Down here in the South (Tennessee,) the boy would have been suspended for mentioning drug paraphernalia. Zero tolerance don't you see? He would have been bound for Hell because of the banner. (Joke.)

Trey

A Menken Moment said...

Gahrie has the right of it. There are many silly shows and puerile demonstrations out there that pass under the cover of free speech. Legal sanction may not be appropriate, but social sanction is. Regardless of whether the Christian story might be history or myth, it is a serious narrative with a non-trivial message, and to treat it in such a juvenile manner is both aesthetically maladroit and culturally moronic. The sad fact is that when confronted with such willful transgression, so many Americans have lost a shared and localized sense of civic piety, and so instead of acting spontaneously (as Gahrie suggests), they resort to the courts.

Oh, how presciently did de Tocqueville describe our present danger, and how cancerously have moral relativism and multiculturalism invaded the body politic!

Elizabeth said...

He went one toke over the line, sweet Jesus.

I enjoyed Ann's taxonomy of the offended. It's exemplified by the comments of the offended in this thread. The best response would have been to ignore him, not to expel him or drag him home for an ass-whuppin'.

Mark said...

Ms. Althouse wrote: Gerry: I didn't mean to say there are only these four types of conservatives.

No, but you said "the unamused folk represent four classic categories of conservatives", all of them a kind of humorless prig.

I'm an unamused conservative type who reacts negatively to the phrase because it expresses a kind of cultural nihilism which offers nothing constructive but thinks that degeneracy (which is what advocation of drug use is) and degrading our cultural foundations is some kind of accomplishment.

Maybe that sounds humorless, but I think that sometimes civilizations really do degenerate into something weak and hollow that is then subjugated by other, more confident and less cynical competing cultures. And while "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is just a silly attempt at humor taken by itself, it is also a depressing indicator of the ongoing, degenerate hollowing out of our culture.

Again, it's no big deal in itself, but as a sign of the times it's depressing. And I don't think that feeling that way makes me a prig.

the pooka said...

Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but...

Yes, yes it does.

Anonymous said...

That's what a prig is. It makes you a prig in the sense that the people who exhibit the symptoms you are we call prigs. Actually, I think we call them prudes and uptight puritains, but prig is prig for prude.

bill said...

Also amusing, King Missile's Jesus Was Way Cool.

partial lyrics:
He could have played guitar better than Hendrix.
He could have told the future.
He could have baked the most delicious cake in the world.
He could have scored more goals than Wayne Gretsky.
He could have danced better than Barishnikof.
Jesus could have been funnier than any comedian you can think of.

Kev said...

""Frederick says (without contradiction) that he had not gone to school that day prior to the banner display, that the banner display was off school property across Glacier Avenue from the campus, and that there were a lot of people, students and non-students, there to watch the torch pass. Other students filed affidavits saying that they were just released, not required to stay together or with their teachers, except for the gym class, and school administrators did not attempt to stop students who got bored and left.""

This sure doesn't sound like a field trip, does it? Another way to check would be to see if the students had to fill out forms to attend the event. Even at the college where I teach, students have to fill out liability waivers to go on field trips (though obviously not with parent signatures). No form, no field tirp, and the principal doesn't have a leg to stand on here.

Kev said...

Umm, make that "no field trip."

WV: vjipbjib. These things just keep getting weirder and weirder...

Fritz said...

Ann,
The 9th took this case for Bong not Jesus. I can't wait for the oral arguments from the pot heads on the SCOTUS. The 9th is playing semantics with school activity, it was. Had his parents called the school to report him as absent for the day, then it was free speech. Simply because events made him late to school doesn't remove the school event. This Court thinks government policy regarding drugs is debatable speech, these are minors, I disagree. The immunity issue can not stand, now principals are Constitutional experts? Regardless of why Frederick was in the principal's office, like resisting arrest charges stand even if the arrest itself is illegal, his behavior towards the principal allows suspension.

Fritz said...

Kev,
My children attend Catholic high schools that have 24/ 7 /365 behavior standards. If they get into trouble outside of school, they can be expelled. Frederick was only available for this event during school hours because the school he attends allowed him to be. He fell under the authority of the school, no room for your semantics.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerry said...

Having read a bit more of the thread, my view of this case is pretty straightforward.

If it is considered a school event, because the school let students attend, then the Principal was well within his rights.

If it is not a school event, then he wasn't.

To me, that makes it not a 1st amendment issue. And the answer should be the same if someone was injured and wanted to sue. If the answer is that the school would have been liable, then it was a school function (and the Principal was in the right). If the school would not have been liable, then the Principal should have had no jurisdiction.

Now, if the court needs to get involved to decide if it is or is not a school activity, well, I guess I can see that. And I would be comfortable either way. If it is a school activity, then the kid may not like it but tough. If it is not, then there should be no liability issues in case of an injury (in such a situation), but also the fact that the banner offended the Principal should be irrelevant.

Ricardo said...

Althouse:
Totally aside from the substance of the issues here, this is one of your best-written posts that I can remember. And it's obvious that you enjoyed yourself, doing it. Congrats.

downtownlad said...

It will be 5-4 upholding the student's right to say what he wants. Kennedy will be the deciding vote.

Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito will say - "What right to free speech?"

chickenlittle said...

bearbee:

Becausw you asked:

No teenager would even think of "Bong Hits 4 Buddha/Mohammad" (totally uncool), and no newspaper would dare cover "Bong Hits 4 Mohammad"

Revenant said...

What is the meaning of "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"?

I'd always assumed it had the same meaning as the "Nuke the Gay Whales" bumper stickers -- specifically, to annoy activists. The difference being that in this case it is right-wing Christian activists being tweaked, rather than left-wing activists.

Fritz,

You appear to think that the law says that schools get to dictate every aspect of a child's life between the hours of 7:30am and 3:30pm regardless of whether or not the student is at school or under any form of school supervision.

You're completely wrong. You know you're completely wrong, as demonstrated by the fact that you demanded Ann "prove you wrong" and then immediately launched into ad hominem attacks against the 9th circuit once she did. If you had a real argument you'd have presented it.

Revenant said...

No teenager would even think of "Bong Hits 4 Buddha/Mohammad" (totally uncool

It isn't that it is totally uncool, it is that it is totally meaningless. These kids aren't growing up in Kuwait, they're growing up in America. In this country, its "Jesus this" and "Jesus that" and "Jesus the other thing". You don't see "Mohammed saves" signs on the side of the road. You aren't asked to ask yourself "what would Mohammed do". Your parent's don't ask you "what in Allah's name are you listening to?" when they don't like your music.

As a young atheist in high school I considered Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, God, et al, to be equally silly. I was, however, in the South. If I had wanted to rebel, what would have been the point in waving a "Mohammed sucks" sign? Everyone I knew already thought that Muslims were heretics or terrorists. There's no point in heaping criticism on something that's already considered worthless.

kettle said...

Juneau, Alaska? The torch relay went through Juneau?

Gahrie said...

You appear to think that the law says that schools get to dictate every aspect of a child's life between the hours of 7:30am and 3:30pm regardless of whether or not the student is at school

In California, the law is the school is in charge of the student from the moment they walk out their front door in the morning, until the moment they walk in their front door in the afternoon.

I've seen kids get suspended for fights before school and after school.

PWS said...

So does the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" mean bong hits support Jesus (a strange phrase) or does it mean get some bong hits to Jesus as in pass the bong to Jesus? Does it matter for the case?
The 1st meaning is probably less offensive than the 2nd?

Sean said...

Well, being a member of the same social milieu as most Supreme Court justices, this case is a good reminder of why we don't send our children to public school, don't understand people who do, and wrestle endlessly with the question of what rules "we" should prescribe for "them." Some might advocate letting "them" govern themselves, but God, or the Founders, has decreed that we cannot permit that.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Private schools can regulate out of school behavior because a contract has been signed. This was a public school.

Ryan said...

How about the fact that less then one ounce of marijuana in your home is legal in the state of Alaska. Proving this may not have been indecent in the first place.

How about the fact that he was 18 at the time. Can the school legally even go after him for not attending?

Perhaps he should have worded it in a manner the courts would better support. "In god we bong hit".

Anonymous said...

"He'll be a big law celebrity: It's the Bong Hits 4 Jesus guy!"

When I first looked at your italicized comments above, I thought it said "Bong Hits 4 Jesus is Gay!" which would add yet another dimension of offense and make it even more fun, meme-wise.

Milhouse said...

What if it was a field trip, and he was technically under school "authority". Fritz, do you think students at school have no 1st amendment rights? Has nobody here heard of Tinker?

MadisonMan said...

A couple comments. The principal in this case sounds like a control freak. I would not want to be a teacher in her school, lest she find my pencils not sharp enough or my paper the wrong shade of white.

The Times describes the banner as advocating Drug Use. Riiight. It's more accurate to describe it as advocating nonsense phrasing meant to annoy.

Just catching up on comment threads I missed out on this weekend :)

Michael said...

It will take a long time, but, to any attempt at tearing down any religious walls I say Halleluiah Halleluiah!

Tyler said...

So in SM Cath, when mograine pulls, I assumed our tank would get aggro from the start, you know like, some sunders, shouts and whatnot, but no! he goes off and in bezerker stance and gets a maul to the face right off the bat. He then begins running away asking for heals. wtf, it's not like healer can do anything about that. How does he expect and heal when he's running away. Our shammy went in and drop a couple healing waves and used his slow totem on mograine, priest topped off our tank and I preceeded to get in some light dps from behind. everything was going great and we had finished him when the lock and priest start arguing over who gets the chapeau. the priest kept insisting it was soley a healer piece, but the lock started making healer jokes and so the priest is like "I am so te logging, U guyz is jerkz" while our shammy was trying to get him to come back, whitemane comes out rezing mograine and me and the tank just look at eachother like "we's are so te screwed" needless to say it fell apart and no one ended up with that stupid head piece. But seriously, armory is like way harder if you don't have sufficient traffic control. we called the shammy's friend "Iwuvcritters" a 50 hunter and finished armory in like 10 minutes...yeah, it's like a record or something, prolly a server first. so basically a non melee classes are te suck and you all should roll rogue, yeah.....uh....this is not the class discussion forum, no I could have sworn...HORDE FTW!

Curtis said...

Doesn't seem so bad to me... It's been proven that alcohol is more harmful than cannabis, and everyone knows that alcohol was consumed as far back as biblical times (aka when Jesus lived). It's two marginally grey areas where both the mention of Bong Hits and Jesus could stir up some controversy, even when detached from each other. Personally, I find it rather funny.

Unknown said...

www.bonghitsforjesus.net