Panel examines civil liberties, rights

Last Thursday panelists gathered in James H. Richmond Residential College to discuss civil liberties and how they are infringed upon today.

In the meeting, titled “The State of Civil Liberties in 2014,” panelists explained what civil liberties are and  transgressions against them.

Civil liberties are freedom of speech, religion and press. The panelists presented their stance on what civil liberties mean to them and ways they were being taken advantage of.

The panelists consisted of Joe Hedges, lecturer in production and advanced business; Ann Beck, associate professor of political science; Evan Handan, a Murray State alumnus;  and Sean Rife, associate professor of Psychology.

Each panelist was asked what they think the current state of civil liberties is and whether there have been advancements or challenges.

A few of the issues discussed were the Ferguson case, the Hobby Lobby case and social media.

In the Ferguson case 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot six times by a police officer. It sparked protests because it is not apparent whether Brown surrendered or if he advanced at the police officer.

“There are all kinds of issues in the Ferguson case that are under investigation and the justice department is in on that one. To me, this is a huge case that we should be looking at and following for not just the rights of the journalists, but the citizens to peacefully protest,” Hedges said.

The police response to protests in Ferguson has been scrutinized by media.

On Oct. 6, Judge Catherine Perry of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri ruled the “5-second-rule” imposed by St. Louis police requiring protestors to keep moving was unconstitutional.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Green family, owners of the stores, decided healthcare plans for their employees will not provide drugs or devices that coud terminate or prevent a human life. This choice reflects the Greens’ religious beliefs.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby.

“This would allow companies on religious basis to decide which medical services they are going to hold,” Beck said.

The recent popularity of Yik Yak, the anonymous social messaging app, has publicized hate speech on Murray State’s campus. Past U.S. Supreme Court rulings protect hate speech, repeatedly citing the First Amendment.

“One of the things about free speech is if you are able to have free speech protected by the government, that means that everyone’s speech is protected not just the ones that you agree with. That’s where it gets tricky,” Hedges said.

Story by Brittany Risko, Staff writer