Monday, November 08, 2010

The Case That's Not What It Seems

A court forcing a cheerleader cheer for her rapist? Well, that's the way Think Progress presented this case decided by the Fifth Circuit.

If you only read Think Progress, you would think the Fifth Circuit had gone batshit crazy and forced an innocent person to cheer for her rapist. But the case was not quite what liberals dressed it up to be:

A former Silsbee, Texas, high school cheerleader did not have a First Amendment right to refuse to cheer for a basketball player she claimed had sexually assaulted her, a federal appeals court panel has ruled...

In January 2009, a racially divided grand jury from Hardin County refused to indict the players, who did not have criminal records...

(The cheerleader)said that school officials ordered her to cheer for Bolton, who also played on the basketball team, at a February 2009 game. (The cheerleader)cheered for the team, but refused to cheer for Bolton individually...

In May 2009, (her) parents...sued... argu(ing) that Sheffield violated the First Amendment by retaliating against H.S. for filing sexual-assault charges by revealing details about the case to the public.

With respect to the school and the school defendants, H.S. and her parents contended that she was punished because of her “symbolic expression” not to cheer for Bolton.

Symbolic expression? Nope. Not according to the Fifth Circuit, which ruled that there was no evidence of retaliation and also that not cheering didn't constitute free speech.

One can disagree with the court's decision, but in no way does the decision show Republicans as pro-rape the way Think Progress argues. As Robert Stacy McCain says:
What seems to be at issue is whether cheerleaders enjoy First Amendment protection for disobedience to school administrators. The 5th Circuit agreed with the trial court that they do not, and also upheld a fine against the plaintiff for bringing a “nuisance” suit. The 5th Circuit wasn’t asked to decide whether Rakheem Bolton raped “H.S.,” or whether unchaperoned parties for teenagers are a good idea, or anything like that.

It was strictly a First Amendment case (although, it being Texas, I’m frankly surprised the father of “H.S.” didn’t make it a Second Amendment case). Reacting as programmed, however, feminists Melissa McEwan and Echidne of the Snakes accuse the court of being pro-rape. The case also offers an extra “Blame Bush” bonus for progressives, considering that the 5th Circuit decision was rendered by a panel of three GOP-appointed judges.

It's not uncommon to run into fringies chomping at the bit to unleash some rage at their favorite targets, but this case in no way shows Republicans in general or GOP-appointed Fifth Circuit judges in particular as pro-rape.