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First Amendment History: The Deborah Lipp Case

by | Nov 9, 2022 | First Amendment, Media Law


Consider this from First Amendment history: In August 1977, Deborah Lipp won a First and Fourteenth Amendment case against the principal of her New Jersey public school and the state attorney general arising from her refusal to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Check out the First Amendment case: Deborah Lipp.

Lipp was 16 at the time and had recently moved to a new school. She believed that some aspects of the pledge of allegiance were not true (i.e. “liberty and justice for all”) when she saw so much discrimination still taking place in America. 

At her former school, she was not compelled to stand during the pledge. In NJ, however, students were compelled by statute to stand during the pledge even if they did not recite it or place their hand over their heart.

Lipp was punished for refusing to stand at the new school. She contacted the ACLU and filed a case challenging the statute as unconstitutional. Lipp argued that not standing for the pledge is protected political speech–and requiring someone to stand compels them to make a particular political statement that they may not hold. This took courage. She received threats and harassment and had to hide at a friend’s house. Eventually, a federal trial court ruled the statute unconstitutional. 

Her case is a reminder that allowing the government to force someone to embrace a particular view, even if most people believe that view to be patriotic, is one of the most unpatriotic things we can do.

I represent news media, bloggers, publishers, and citizens interested in government access, and others who operate under the First Amendment—public records; public meetings; newsgathering; avoiding defamation lawsuits; suing Anti-SLAPP violators. My job is to help you get the records and access you need, help you get the story, help you get the story without getting arrested, help get the story published without defaming anyone, and then defend the story after publication. 

If you need help with any of these areas and don’t have an attorney already, contact me: [email protected]. This post is not intended to be legal advice and does not form the basis of a lawyer-client relationship.



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