From national censorship, to Iowa legislator and the 50th anniversary of Tinker v Des Moines

The First Amendment is an establishing part of the United States’ foundation. Around the world and for decades, people have come together to support their right to freedom of speech. Censorship and freedom of speech have collided on the national and local levels. All around the United States high schools are restricted from publishing certain articles to their publication based on censorship. 

            On Feb. 27, 2019 Drake University hosted an event for the 50th anniversary of the court case Tinker v Des Moines. The two students in the case, John and Mary Beth Tinker were not only accompanied by Drake students, alumni and faculty, but Iowa legislators and community members as well. The event was conversational with a student panel and a freedom of speech activity, anyone attending the event was invited to share six words that described freedom of speech to them. 

            Mary Wolfe, State Representative for Iowa’s 98 district, was in attendance and while speaking let the audience know of House File 276 that is in the Iowa House at that moment that addresses censorship and freedom of speech on the public university level. 

            “This bill, says that a student organization is allowed to deny members the right to run for leadership if they do not adhere to their tenets or they do not follow their code of conduct,” Wolfe said. 

            Wolfe mentions that on Feb. 28 the subcommittee would meet to vote on if they think the bill should be passed. According to legis.iowa.gov, the subcommittee did recommend the passing of the bill and on March 5, 2019 the committee’s report recommends amendment and passing of House File 276

            “The other thing it does,” said Wolfe. “It’s actually pretty interesting, it does address this idea where when student organizations bring in controversial speakers… should other people who disagree with them be able to come to the speeches and verbally protest them… and under this bill, that would be illegal.” 

            John Tinker, of the Tinker v Des Moines case, poses a question to the audience about freedom of speech and speeches taking place on Iowa campuses.

            “The greater question is, if you can decide if there can be certain speech and not other speech, who gets to decide?” John Tinker said.   

            Cheyann Neades, Sophomore at Drake studying Magazine Media with minors in Advertising and Anthropology, was a part of the student portion of the event. Neades is a supporter of freedom of speech and hopes that there is soon a drop in censorship around The United States. 

            “I just hope that, especially school systems, private or public, are more accepting of this law existing, and this law existing for students because it matters,” Neades said. 

            John Tinker being a member of the Tinker v Des Moines case 50 years ago is a continued activist of the first amendment. During his time at the microphone, he tries to explain how what he did most see as heroic, but he doesn’t see it that way at all. 

            “We weren’t knights in shining armor out to slay the dragon, we were part of a movement, a peace movement,” John Tinker said. 

            Neades, having attended the same high school as Mary Beth and John Tinker when this case was brought to court, holds their work in a special place in her heart. 

            “Yeah they did this case 50 years ago, but there still here doing free speech work every day,” Neades said. 

            This even shows that even after 50 years from the tinker case, freedom of speech and the first amendment remain a heavy subject in today’s world with the new Iowa House File 276. Neades shares the view that the Tinkers affluential role in the first amendment carry on in today’s society. 

            “Although the case was 50 years ago,” said Neades. “It still is changing the way we understand free speech today.”

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