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First Amendment Blog

Blocking Women's March from key D.C. sites risks infringing on First Amendment rights

December 12th, 2016 by efitzpatrick

Jenna Wims Hashway, professor of legal practice at the RWU School of Law:

The president-elect’s respect for (and indeed, grasp of) First Amendment rights has been a source of concern for many.  Now, with the announcement that the National Park Service (on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee) has issued a massive omnibus block permit — barring access to the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial for days or weeks before, during and after the inauguration — the right of peaceful assembly is also at risk. 

45 Words, 5 Freedoms, 1st Amendment: Add your voice

December 5th, 2016 by efitzpatrick

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, New England First Amendment Coalition board member and former Providence Journal columnist:


The 45 words in the First Amendment guarantee five freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and freedom to petition the government. But those constitutional guarantees are paper thin if not defended and championed by each generation.

In his book “Freedom for the Thought We Hate,” Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Lewis noted that in 1798 (just seven years after the First Amendment was added to the Constitution), Congress passed a law punishing disrespectful comments about the president, and editors went to the hoosegow for mocking President John Adams. And a century later, men received 20 years in prison for criticizing a policy decision by President Woodrow Wilson.

Students could teach president-elect lesson in media law

December 4th, 2016 by efitzpatrick

Paola Prado, RWU associate professor of journalism and adviser to university's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists:

At the time of this writing, it’s been 130 days since the president-elect held a press conference.

This break from a 103-year tradition that dates back to Woodrow Wilson leaves members of the Washington press corps to read the tea leaves of realDonaldTrump tweets in search of clues as to the mindset of the next U.S. president.

When facts and news diverge

December 2nd, 2016 by efitzpatrick

David A. Logan, professor of law and former dean of the RWU School of Law who has studied and written extensively about First Amendment issues:  

Historically, what information was considered "news" and thus worth publishing was determined by a reporter or editor. The idea was that this provided a screen that would judge not just accuracy but also relevance and context. And indeed, many journalists worked hard to be unbiased in making these determinations, striving toward some version of the New York Times motto: “All the news that's fit to print.”

What Trump missed on First Amendment and flag burning

December 1st, 2016 by efitzpatrick

Michael J. Yelnosky, professor of law and dean of the RWU School of Law, spoke with Gene Valicenti on the WPRO radio station on Nov. 30 about the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in the case of Texas v. Johnson, which held that flag burning was a form of “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment. The issue flared to life on Nov. 29 with an early-morning tweet from President-elect Donald J. Trump, who wrote that, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”