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Martin Luther King Day reminds us of First Amendment values

By Gene Policinski
First Amendment Center vice president/executive director

Comment? E-mail me

Occasionally, as promised when I began this blog, I want to alert you to special items in the news and on the First Amendment Center Online.

Martin Luther King Day, on Jan. 21, is an occasion to note again that the civil rights movement, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, showed the First Amendment in action, with all five freedoms in use: speech, press, religious liberty, assembly and petition.

Worthy of note: A new book and CD set of tributes and remembrances of King, Voices: Reflections on an American Icon Through Words and Song, has just been published by Dalmatian Press. It includes interviews with many who knew and worked with King, including children's-rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman, Rep. John Lewis, poet Nikki Giovanni, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Gene Patterson and Howell Raines, and First Amendment Center Founder John Seigenthaler.

This year, citizens around the country continue to put their First Amendment freedoms to work in honoring King and his legacy. In Oklahoma City, religious leaders plan a rally where they will ask gang members to lay down their guns and sign a nonviolence pledge in honor of King. In Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum remembered King this week with a lecture. In Seattle, students will march for social justice to honor King. And the First Baptist Church of Dallas held an oratory contest in King's honor. The winner, reports McClatchy news service, was 9-year-old Dalton Sherman.

At the bottom of this blog you'll find a number of links to other related items.

In other news ...

  • When First Amendment Scholar Ron Collins looked at CEO Jeff Bezos' new e-book invention, Kindle, it kindled worries about potential regulation. Because Kindle uses continuous wireless connectivity, it could become target of government regulators seeking to restrict transmission of objectionable books over 'public airwaves.' (See the link to Collins' commentary below.)

  • Philadelphia First Amendment lawyer Michael Berry makes what he calls "a conservative case" for a national shield law. In a guest column, Berry notes in response to conservative fears of national-security breaches owing to leaks to reporters that nowadays prosecutors have ranged far beyond national security in their quest for the identities of confidential sources: They’re going after reporters’ sources for stories on athletes’ steroid use and street protests.

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  • Related

    African-American First Amendment heroes

    By David L. Hudson Jr. In honor of Black History Month, a look at four major cases that bolstered First Amendment freedoms. 02.20.04

    King's legacy embodies First Amendment freedoms

    By Sam Chaltain Martin Luther King Jr. had faith in 'those great wells of democracy' from which sprang the 5 freedoms of the First Amendment. 01.17.05

    New e-book may 'kindle' fires of regulation — or of freedom

    By Ronald K.L. Collins Because Jeff Bezos' invention uses continuous wireless connectivity, it could become target of regulators seeking to restrict transmission of objectionable books over 'public airwaves.' 01.15.08

    Libby’s legacy: The conservative case for a national shield law
    By Michael Berry Prosecutors aren't just subpoenaing reporters in cases where national security might be compromised — they're going after reporters’ sources for stories on athletes’ steroid use and street protests. 01.18.08

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