Do you remember earlier this year when Iowa State University tried to ban t-shirts designed by the University’s chapter of NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws)? If you do, then you likely remember the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students who are a part of NORML and not the administrators who were trying to restrict their freedom of speech in the form of censoring their t-shirts.
The case all started because the group wanted to depict the mascot along with a marijuana leaf – in this case, the school had originally approved the design and later banned it after the students were seen wearing the shirts, getting the attention of government officials with ties to the school. In the end, they tried to appeal the court’s decision, but to no avail as there was a clear violation of the group’s First Amendment rights.
Despite repeated warnings that it is violating the First Amendment rights of its students, the University of Missouri (Mizzou) refuses to allow a recognized student group to create t-shirts featuring a cannabis leaf and the university’s name.
You would think after a case like this one that garnered national attention, no other schools would bother attempting to ban similar t-shirt designs – but the University of Missouri is proving us wrong as they recently placed a ban on t-shirts designed by the campus chapter of NORML. Just like the situation in Iowa, the t-shirts depicted the school mascot along with a marijuana leaf.
This time however, the shirts never got made and the design was denied right from the get-go. The school, like Iowa, used the fact that the school did not approve of the “message that it could appear to express”. If it was a violation of the group’s First Amendment rights back in February of this year in Iowa, it certainly is now in Missouri only a few months later. It’s as though the University of Missouri never saw a single news article about the Iowa case – because they think they will get away with this.
“Mizzou flatly told MU NORML that it was censoring the group’s T-shirt artwork because of the message it could appear to express. That’s viewpoint discrimination, and it’s prohibited by the First Amendment,” said FIRE Vice President of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley.
Whether or not the group is already planning to take legal action is unclear – but they have a clear chance to win if they do decide to take this to court. On the other hand, with the number of letters that the University of Missouri is likely getting right now, perhaps they will back off and allow the t-shirt design without it having to be heard by a judge. It would definitely look better on the school if they were progressive enough to allow the t-shirts without a fight.