Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987)

Houston v. Hill is a remarkable U.S. Supreme Court case that tackles abuses of power by police departments. The Supreme Court decided 7-2 that a Houston, Texas ordinance that was routinely used to arrest citizens for merely “arguing, talking, interfering, failing to remain quiet, refusing to remain silent, verbal abuse, cursing, verbally yelling, and talking loudly” toward a police officer.

Not only did the Supreme Court rule this type of conduct to be protected First Amendment speech, but the Supreme Court also expressed that the right to question police conduct is a fundamental distinction between democracy and dictatorship.

Consider these key quotations:

  • the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers. Speech is often provocative and challenging [b]ut it is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.
  • a properly trained officer may reasonably be expected to “exercise a higher degree of restraint” than the average citizen, and thus be less likely to respond belligerently to “fighting words.”
  • The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.
  • Although we appreciate the difficulties of drafting precise laws, we have repeatedly invalidated laws that provide the police with unfettered discretion to arrest individuals for words or conduct that annoy or offend them.
  • in the face of verbal challenges to police action, officers and municipalities must respond with restraint. We are mindful that the preservation of liberty depends in part upon the maintenance of social order. But the First Amendment recognizes, wisely we think, that a certain amount of expressive disorder not only is inevitable in a society committed to individual freedom, but must itself be protected if that freedom would survive.
  • Although some of these incidents may have involved unprotected conduct, the vagueness of these charges suggests that, with respect to this ordinance, Houston officials have not been acting with proper sensitivity to the constitutional rights of their citizens.


Oración intercesoria antes del Huracán Matthew

Ahora mismo es el momento propicio para acercarnos “al trono de la gracia, para alcanzar misericordia y hallar gracia para el oportuno socorro” (Heb 4:16 RV60) intercediendo para los residentes–los impíos tanto como los justos (Mat 4:45)–en Haiti, Jamaica, y todo el mar caribe.

En Génesis, leemos de tal acción de Abraham al saberse de la amenaza pendiente contra sus vecinos:”¿Destruirás también al justo con el impío? 24 Quizá haya cincuenta justos dentro de la ciudad: ¿destruirás también y no perdonarás al lugar por amor a los cincuenta justos que estén dentro de él? Lejos de ti el hacer tal, que hagas morir al justo con el impío, y que sea el justo tratado como el impío; nunca tal hagas. El Juez de toda la tierra, ¿no ha de hacer lo que es justo? Entonces respondió Jehová: Si hallare en Sodoma cincuenta justos dentro de la ciudad, perdonaré a todo este lugar por amor a ellos. Y Abraham replicó y dijo: He aquí ahora que he comenzado a hablar a mi Señor, aunque soy polvo y ceniza. Quizá faltarán de cincuenta justos cinco; ¿destruirás por aquellos cinco toda la ciudad? Y dijo: No la destruiré, si hallare allí cuarenta y cinco. Y volvió a hablarle, y dijo: Quizá se hallarán allí cuarenta. Y respondió: No lo haré por amor a los cuarenta. Y dijo: No se enoje ahora mi Señor, si hablare: quizá se hallarán allí treinta. Y respondió: No lo haré si hallare allí treinta. Y dijo: He aquí ahora que he emprendido el hablar a mi Señor: quizá se hallarán allí veinte. No la destruiré, respondió, por amor a los veinte. Y volvió a decir: No se enoje ahora mi Señor, si hablare solamente una vez: quizá se hallarán allí diez. No la destruiré, respondió, por amor a los diez. Y Jehová se fue, luego que acabó de hablar a Abraham; y Abraham volvió a su lugar.” (Gen 18:23-33)

Este es el brio y la osadía de Abraham quien poco antes “creyó a Jehová, y le fue contado por justicia” (Gén 15:6). En esta misma manera, “La oración eficaz del justo puede mucho” (Santiago 5:16).

Ahora mismo, orémonos e intercedamos. No se requiere gran oración sino CUATRO palabras, digan, “Señor, salvalos del huracán.” Júntense conmigo a orar así hoy y mañana tanto como el espíritu nos inste (Hechos 2:4).

George Zimmerman Trial

George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin BOTH used bad judgment, but why is it that only Zimmerman’s judgment is scrutinized? The “girlfriend” testified that Martin was the one who initiated verbal contact. Recently someone tried to tell me that Martin was within his First Amendment rights to say whatever he wanted to. But by that same logic, Zimmerman was within his First Amendment rights to assemble where he wished. But it was Martin who created the confrontation between them. And Martin could have chosen to explain that he was visiting a resident and that would have diffused the situation. Let’s not forget about Trayvon Margin’s poor judgment.