The Rhode Island ACLU intervened, reaching an agreement with Coventry school officials that they would not require students to stand for the Pledge and that any Pledge-related disciplinary records would be expunged from Marketos’s file. In a letter to school officials, the ACLU also observed that “a student’s right to silently dissent from a coerced patriotic exercise like this lies at the heart of the First Amendment.”

Obviously, if Spear had his way, that would no longer be the case.

MBTA TO PASSENGERS: "Just drop the camera"
Anti-photo policy is “insulting and naïve”
Not to give the terrorists any ideas, but if they wanted to blow up, say, the State House, or City Hall, they’d probably take photos to help them plot out the logistics. Somehow, though, it wouldn’t occur to anyone this side of former East Germany to arrest anyone spotted taking pictures of publicly accessible government property. There are certain things you just can’t stop in a free society.

Then there’s the MBTA. Granted, public-transportation systems are unusually vulnerable to attack — consider what happened in Madrid and London. But according to a letter to the T written by John Reinstein, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, and Jonathan Albano, a prominent First Amendment lawyer, amateur photographers have been stopped from taking pictures of vehicles and facilities even when they are in full view of the public.

“The practice is inconsistently employed, does nothing to address surreptitious or long distance photographs of the same sites, and restricts the rights of law-abiding persons,” Albano and Reinstein wrote, arguing that the MBTA is violating both the First Amendment and the state constitution. Currently there is no written policy, leaving T personnel free to make up their own rules. Photographers may also apply for one-month permits, which, of course, the MBTA is free to reject.

This is hardly surprising, given the agency’s long-time problems with freedom of expression. Last year the T was awarded a Dishonorable Mention for insisting that it would continue to ban advertisements urging the decriminalization of marijuana, even after a federal appeals court ruled that the agency had engaged in “viewpoint discrimination.” In September, the T ordered 220 ads promoting Sex and the City reruns removed.

Reinstein and Albano’s blow for freedom was immediately met with resistance. MBTA general manager Daniel Grabauskas called the lawyers’ alleged lack of security concerns “insulting and naive.” Grabauskas ought to get himself over to and search for “MBTA,” where he’ll find more than 1200 images of trains, buses, stations, and the like. In fact, it’s he who’s being naive — not to mention insulting to the public.

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