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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 13, 2000)
Reading between the lines
Bar Association overstepping First Amendment rights
I — I
“If there is any fixed star in oitr
Constitutional constellation, it is that
no official, high or petty, can pre
scribe what shall be orthodox in poli
tics, nationalism, religion or other
matters of opinion..."
—U.S. Supreme Court
In the middle of the 20th century,
the Supreme Court ruled that govern
ment censorship of books violated the
First Amendment guarantee of free
In the 1960s, they made a huge
contribution to freedom of the press
by restricting libel law.
In the 1970s, they allowed even a
despised group of racists like the Ku
Klux Klan to march in public.
In the 1980s, they protected flag
burning, and in the 1990s, they struck
down government censorship of the
The battle for free expression is
over, and we’ve won, right?
Consider the case of Paul
Converse, a graduate of the South
Dakota School of Law. Converse
moved to Nebraska and applied for
admission to take the Bar exam. The
Nebraska Supreme Court refused to
let him take die exam because
Converse “lacked the requisite moral
While a student, Converse posted
a picture of a woman’s naked backside
on his study carrel, circulated a satiri
cal pamphlet about the dean and sent
letters critical of a professor to two
federal judges. None of these actions
even violated the law school’s honor
code, much less the criminal law.
If Converse had done these kinds
of things after getting his law license,
he would probably be protected by the
Instead, because of the delicate
sensibilities of the Nebraska Supreme
Court, he’s lost three years of his life
and tens of thousands of dollars.
Consider also the case of Matthew
Hale. Hale, an avowed racist and
founder of the World Church of the
Creator (a white supremacist religious
group), took the Illinois Bar Exam.
Hale passed the exam, including
the portion on ethics, but was refused
a law license because of his political
and religious views. The Bar is afraid
Hale won’t be able to treat black
If, as the U.S. Supreme Court
asserts, freedom of expression is the
“fixed star” of the constitutional “con
stellation,” then the law should only
prohibit actions and not words.
There is no evidence that Hale
has ever acted in a discriminatory
manner toward blacks, nor has he ever
threatened to treat black clients unfair
This failure to separate mere
words from actions creates a danger
ous precedent. If a Southern Baptist
applies for a law license, should he be
denied because he might not treat
women or gays fairly?
I’ve probably said all kinds of
things about Christians... should I be
denied because I might not treat them
Simply put, lawyers don’t need to
like their clients to do a good job.
Does your copy of the Constitution say
that there shall be no law abridging
freedom of speech “unless the speech is
insensitive ”? Mine doesn t.
When lawyers defend rapists, embez
zlers and murderers, do you think they
like their clients? Probably not, but
they’re still ethically bound to do their
Converse certainly acted imma
turely— he could have taken his
grievances through proper channels
instead of airing them in public.
Hale’s views are despicable and
wrong. But the point is that no one,
not even Bar Associations in all of
their monopolistic splendor, should
have the power to decide what kind of
speech is allowable.
At the very least, Converse and
Hale could have been granted proba
tionary status for a set period of time
while an experienced attorney super
vised their cases to make sure no
problems took place.
These small incursions on free
speech occur more often than we real
ize. Take a look at a UNL Housing
poster for example. It prohibits
“insensitive language” towards mem
bers of certain groups as a “serious
violation of housing policy.”
Does your copy of the
Constitution say that there shall be no
law abridging freedom of speech
“unless the speech is insensitive”?
As a gay man, I’m certainly sym
pathetic to the problems minority
groups face because of name-calling,
but I don’t think infringing upon the
First Amendment is the solution.
When the Constitution protects the
likes of Converse and Hale, we can be
sure it will protect all of us.
The days when the government
burned books and imprisoned writers
But the day when all speech is
truly free has not yet come.
Jeremy Patrick is a Jirst-year law student and a Daily Nebraskan columnist
Sponsor a miracle
Helping underprivileged children can be rewarding experience
I was very touched when I read my mail
after returning from Christmas vacation. One
of my letters was from Children International. I
was curious as to why I was sent this letter. I
never sent off for anything.
We’ve all seen pictures of poor children in
magazines and on television. You may have
even thought “Someday, I’m going to do some
thing to help.” Maybe you’ve considered giv
ing a donation “someday,” but you just never
got around to doing it because you were too
busy or you forgot.
Dying children can’t wait for “someday.”
Children everywhere are dying every sec
ond as you read this column. They need our
After reading the letter, I felt so privileged
and lucky to have had such a good childhood.
I’ve never been without anything that I needed.
I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like
to live in desperate poverty.
I believe in miracles, and I believe that no
condition in life is permanent. Not everyone is
born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth,
but we can certainly make the most of what we
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to
become a better person. I want to help others
more by serving others. Giving to charity is
I decided that I would sponsor a child for
$ 12 a month. I am just a poor college student
like the rest of you, but I know that I can sur
vive without $12 each month. Sometimes I
think I just throw money away on things that I
really don’t need. Shoes and clothes are simply
material things I can do without.
Children International is a no cost, no risk
and no obligation charity. No one is forced to
do anything they don’t want to do. All they ask
of you is to consider sponsoring a child or just
say “maybe.” I knew immediately that I wanted
to get involved, and I just said “yes” because I
knew it was the right thing for me to do.
It is the least 1 can do for a child.
Innocent children like Elmer from
Honduras arc among the many millions of chil
dren who need our
help. He was 3 years old and living in desper
ate poverty. His grandmother was trying to
provide for him after his parents abandoned
She was trying to survive on a meager
income of $30 a month. I looked at his picture.
He looked so innocent and so precious that he
touched my heart. I imagined if this was my
child. I think like all children, Elmer believes
A miracle would mean going to the doctor
when he is sick instead of suffering in silence
on the dirt floors of the tiny, drafty shack he
A miracle would be the opportunity to
attend school, wear shoes and have basic
school supplies to get an education.
You can help make miracles happen for a
needy child and discover the rewards of
sponsoring a child like Elmer. There is no
risk or obligation. /
For as little as 40 cents a day, you can ^
help provide desperately needed basic
care for your sponsored child; things
such as medical and dental care,
educational assistance, food, cloth- ¥9ta|
ing and improved living conditions. ill
These days $ 12 won’t even buy a Yf||
pair of shoes or cover a decent meal at Y||l
a restaurant. lm
But $ 12 can help work miracles. un
If you sponsor a child, you receive Vi
his or her photo, personal history, special \ \
interests and hobbies. Just think of the V
personal satisfaction you will have if you 1
sponsor a child. You can help break the '
cycle of poverty that many innocent chil
dren face throughout the world.
If you decide you want to sponsor a
child, you’re never locked into anything.
You can change or cancel your spon
sorship at any time for any rea
We cannot solve all the
world’s problems ... but we
can all help to improve the prob
lems in this world by helping one
small child who desperately needs
someone like YOU
Now that we have entered a new
millennium, a new century, a new
beginning, let's make some positive
changes in our lives and become more
giving, caring and generous by serving
We can alt-reach out to help one precious
child and truly make miracles happen.
... . * — • • '. '’ ’ ■ V% . • %
Lesley Owusu is a junior broadcasting major and a Daily Nebraskan columnist.
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