Most legislators are lawyers. Not all, but generally if you ask a legislator what they did before they were elected, they’ll tell you that they were lawyers. I’ve never gone to law school, but I’m pretty sure that Constitutional law is taught there. To understand Constitutional law, you’d presumably have to read and understand the Constitution. That would include it’s subsequent Amendments, the first ten of which are known as “The Bill of Rights.”
Amendment #1 contains a number of restrictions on what the federal government, and by extension of the 14th Amendment, the states can do. Just in case you’re not a lawyer or legislator, I’ll include the text of the First Amendment.
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.
This Amendment protects “speech” which has a lot of meanings not limited to the spoken word. Newspapers, TV, signs, art of various types, even hate filled screeds, are protected. The very purpose of the First Amendment is to protect speech that many feel is offensive. “Many” includes the government, it especially includes the government.
Which makes this very baffling.
The state legislature of Arizona has passed a bill that vastly broadens telephone harassment laws and applies them to the Internet and other means of electronic communication.
The law, which is being pushed under the guise of an anti-bullying campaign, would mean that anything communicated or published online that was deemed to be “offensive” by the state, including editorials, illustrations, and even satire could be criminally punished.
While the goal is laudable, the means is illegal. It will not stand court scrutiny at any level.
Interestingly, the State of Arizona and at least one Obama Administration official agree on this.
Cass Sunstein, head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has also proposed banning speech on the internet that the government disagrees with. Sunstein proposed the creation of an internet “Fairness Doctrine” similar to the one that was used for years to limit and eliminate free speech on the radio.
I checked and this was not an April Fool’s joke. Then again many legislators are fools all year round.
Oh, wait, was that offensive?
I predict a quick death for this bill even if the Governor is silly enough to sign it.