Unprecedented Unprecedented tells the raw and emotional stories of ordinary people who, as they pursued justice all the way to the Supreme Court, defined the limits of our First Amendment rights. In each episode, you will meet the accidental guardians of one our most cherished freedoms: speech. They are war protesters and Ku Klux Klan members, internet trolls and religious zealots. They are Americans who, regardless of their social or political views — or even any awareness of the stakes — have helped us fill in the Constitutional gaps that our Founding Fathers left open to interpretation.Through captivating interviews with the plaintiffs of precedent-setting cases – many of whom have never been interviewed before – you will learn about your right to be mean, to threaten others or to simply not say anything at all.Hosted by award-winning radio producers Michael Vuolo and Matthew Schwartz with special appearances by NPR's Nina Totenberg, Unprecedented will show us how we got here so we can better understand where we're going. You'll never think of the Constitution the same way again.
Unprecedented

Unprecedented

From WAMU 88.5

Unprecedented tells the raw and emotional stories of ordinary people who, as they pursued justice all the way to the Supreme Court, defined the limits of our First Amendment rights. In each episode, you will meet the accidental guardians of one our most cherished freedoms: speech. They are war protesters and Ku Klux Klan members, internet trolls and religious zealots. They are Americans who, regardless of their social or political views — or even any awareness of the stakes — have helped us fill in the Constitutional gaps that our Founding Fathers left open to interpretation.Through captivating interviews with the plaintiffs of precedent-setting cases – many of whom have never been interviewed before – you will learn about your right to be mean, to threaten others or to simply not say anything at all.Hosted by award-winning radio producers Michael Vuolo and Matthew Schwartz with special appearances by NPR's Nina Totenberg, Unprecedented will show us how we got here so we can better understand where we're going. You'll never think of the Constitution the same way again.

Most Recent Episodes

A Thousand Ways to Kill You

Anthony Elonis wrote a series of Facebook posts describing gory fantasies of revenge, often in the form of rap lyrics, against his estranged wife and others. He was later convicted of violating a federal law that prohibits such threats and was sentenced to more than three years in prison. Elonis claimed he was merely venting and using an established art form, just like Eminem. And that the First Amendment protects violent speech. Listen to the Season 1 finale of Unprecedented. If you love Unprecedented, you can support the show and more great podcasts from WAMU by heading to wamu.org/donate.

Bodily Harm Is Coming

To a Klu Klux Klan member, a flaming cross is a "beautiful" symbol of "racial purity." To many Americans, it's the image of racist intimidation. But, what is it to the Supreme Court, and is it protected by the Constitution? In the emotionally-charged case, Virginia v. Black, the KKK learns the difference between intent and historical perception — with unexpected assistance from an African American ACLU lawyer. Plus: A Supreme Court Justice breaks his years-long silence. If you love Unprecedented, you can support the show and more great podcasts from WAMU by heading to wamu.org/donate.

Drugs for a Deity

Joe Frederick knew that students have some free speech rights, but he wanted to find out just how far those rights go. So when his high school class headed outside to watch the Olympic torch pass through their Alaska neighborhood in January 2002, Joe unfurled a 14-foot-banner that would test the limits of the First Amendment in school. Except...no one really understood what the banner meant, including Joe Frederick! If you love Unprecedented, you can support the show and more great podcasts from WAMU by heading to wamu.org/donate.

The Most Moderate Protest

John and Mary Beth Tinker—teenagers in Iowa during the mid-1960s—wore black armbands to school one day as a symbolic protest against the Vietnam War. They were both suspended and later sued the Des Moines school district for violating their First Amendment rights. The armbands may seem mild compared to the vocal walkouts we see today. But at the time, it was described as "a disturbing situation within the schools." In this landmark case, the Supreme Court weighed whether freedom of speech extends to public students. If you love Unprecedented, you can support the show and more great podcasts from WAMU by heading to wamu.org/donate.

Middle Finger To God

When Albert Snyder arrived for the funeral service of his son Matthew, a young Marine who died in the Iraq War, he was surprised by the noise and chaos that greeted him. Seven members of the Westboro Baptist Church—which believes that U.S. military casualties are a result of God's anger at an America that embraces sin—were picketing the funeral, holding signs with messages like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." Snyder sued Westboro for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, and the Supreme Court had to decide: Does the First Amendment protect hurtful speech directed at a private citizen? If you love Unprecedented, you can support the show and more great podcasts from WAMU by heading to wamu.org/donate.

Terry Abrahamson's Dirty Joke

When asked to pen some biting humor for the pages of Hustler back in 1983, writer Terry Abrahamson took aim at evangelical Christian preacher Jerry Falwell. The result was a vulgar parody of a real Campari ad—though instead of celebrities coyly talking about their "first time" tasting the Italian liqueur, Abrahamson wrote a fictional account of Falwell's first time having sex (SPOILER: it was in an outhouse, with his own mother). Falwell sued Hustler for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the Supreme Court had to decide: Does the First Amendment give us the right to parody a public figure? If you love Unprecedented, you can support the show and more great podcasts from WAMU by heading to wamu.org/donate.

"Not Alone In My Own Body"

Emily Heiden was pregnant, panicked, and searching for advice. She found a clinic on the internet that promised medical guidance "without politics or hype," yet what she encountered was not what she expected. California lawmakers, concerned about the way religious pregnancy centers marketed their services, later passed a law requiring them to include information about abortions. But the centers sued, arguing that the First Amendment protected them from having to advertise abortion services. This week, we discuss whether a state can compel you to say something you disagree with on moral grounds — from the perspective of the 2018 case NIFLA v Becerra. If you love Unprecedented, you can support the show and more great podcasts from WAMU by heading to wamu.org/donate

Live Free...or Try

Unprecedented begins with the story of a man who, nearly a half-century ago, committed a minor act of civil disobedience when he covered up the state motto on his license plate. Meet George Maynard, who battled New Hampshire over a slogan—Live Free or Die—that he found personally repugnant. His deeply held convictions would land him in jail, cost him his job, and carry him all the way to the Supreme Court. If you love Unprecedented, you can support the show and more great podcasts from WAMU by heading to wamu.org/donate

Introducing Unprecedented

A new podcast from WAMU introduces you to the accidental guardians of our First Amendment rights.

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