Evans: Iowa’s universities need to learn an important lesson

In recent years, Republicans and Democrats in the Iowa Legislature often agree on little. But they were nearly unanimous this spring in supporting an important piece of legislation — a bill requiring faculty and administrators at the state universities to go through training about the First Amendment and the rights it contains. Anyone skeptical of the need for the new law received a wake-up call last week when the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis handed down a decision against the University of Iowa. The decision should embarrass and anger Iowans. In a blistering 3-0 ruling, the court said university administrators engaged in clear discrimination against a student religious group based solely on the views of the organization and its leaders.

Evans: How you can still lose while winning in court

Many years ago, during a conversation with an old lawyer, he made a comment I still remember: “You can sue the bishop of Boston for bastardy, but that doesn’t mean you are going to collect.”

It was Frank Karpan’s way of reminding a young editor that merely filing a lawsuit is not the most important occurrence in a dispute. The outcome is. My friend’s Frank-isms have been quoted in these columns before. My favorite is the rarely wrong observation, “I never had a client listen himself into trouble, but I’ve had plenty who talked themselves into trouble.”

Frank’s comment about the bishop occurred back when it was easier to figure out winners and losers in court fights. These days, however, someone can win in court but ultimately lose, because the cost of a skilled legal defense can be staggering.

Evans: Needless confusion about First Amendment

Forty-five words that were first written with a quill pen 230 years ago form what may be the most consequential sentence in United States history. But that sentence also is one of the most misunderstood – as recent comments from some of our leaders illustrate. The sentence I refer to is the First Amendment. It is the Constitution’s guarantee of fundamental rights of the American people to live their lives without government butting in. For reference, here is what the amendment says in full: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Podcast: Behind-The-Scenes Look at IowaWatch’s Most-Read 2016 Stories

The most-read stories IowaWatch from 2016 included a look at free speech rights on college campuses, legislation covering medication to treat drug overdoses and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The IowaWatch Connection radio program brings you up to date on those stories and reveals behind-the-scenes information on how they came about.