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Supreme Court to hear cases on political donations, obscene cheerleader post

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Supreme Court to hear cases on political donations, obscene cheerleader post
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for a group photo Friday at the court in Washington, D.C. Seated, from left to right: Associates Justice Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Standing, from left to right: Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. Pool Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

April 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court this week will hear two very different First Amendment cases that could help answer lingering questions about the lines of free speech.

On Monday, justices will hear a combined case filed by two conservative groups against the state of California concerning political donor lists.

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California requires organizations to compile names and addresses of those giving $5,000 or more. That information is sent to the state, where it remains confidential.

The state mandates that all charities in California, including nonprofits, submit federal tax returns -- including a form reporting the names and addresses of major donors nationwide.

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Americans for Prosperity and the Thomas More Law Center argue in their court filings that the state has no need to compel political donor information to serve any law-enforcement goal. They also note that the state "virtually never uses" the information.

The groups argue that the California rule violates their First Amendment right to free association because it discourages donors -- fearful of their political activities being leaked publicly -- from making contributions.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals previously sided with California and affirmed its authority to require the lists.

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On Wednesday, the court will hear Mahanoy Area School District vs. B.L., which draws on important issues related to schools and students' social media accounts.

In 2017, then-sophomore Brandi Levy made an obscenity-filled post on Snapchat after she was assigned to the junior varsity cheerleading squad, instead of the varsity team.

When school officials learned of the post, they suspended her from cheerleading for one year. Her father filed a federal lawsuit against the school district, saying her First Amendment rights were violated.

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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia sided with Levy, who is now a college student, which led the district to appeal to the Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden's administration has backed the school district in the case, saying schools must be able to respond to threats of violence and speech that bullies others.

"When it comes to online activity -- especially salient during the current pandemic -- many of students' contacts and social-media 'friends' are likely to be fellow students, so anything they post online reasonably could be expected to 'reach' the school," a friend-of-the-court brief filed by acting U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar states.

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