Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Ag Gag" is Really a "First Amendment Gag"

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM

As Bianca Phillips reported Thursday the Tennessee House has passed what's been termed the "Ag Gag" bill. UPDATE: The Senate has also passed the bill.
click to enlarge chickens-1.jpg

This enlightened piece of legislature requires that anyone who takes video or photos of animal abuse must turn over said photographs or video to law enforcement within 48 hours. Proponents of the law say it will help prevent animal cruelty, but the law, similar if not identical to laws proposed in many other states, is the brainchild of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing, corporate-funded outfit that's helpfully writing corporate-friendly legislation for GOP legislators all over the country.

The real purpose of the law is to stifle investigations of animal abuse or poor and unhealthy conditions for farm animals. It might better termed a "First Amendment Gag" law, since its intended to deter activist organizations and the media from reporting on offensive or illegal corporate farming methods.

I don't believe the law would stand up in court, if challenged, and, as Bianca noted, the Knoxville Sentinal has already declared that it will ignore the law. But it could, as it was no doubt intended to do, deter media outlets and activist groups without the deep pockets needed to take such a case to trial.

It's beyond absurd. Let's say ALEC decides we shouldn't have the media reporting on corporate pollution (not that far-fetched an idea), and decides that all video and photos of a corporate-polluted stream must be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours. I honestly think the TN legislature would jump on board. It's the same principle, and patently unconstitutional.

This law has now been sent on to Governor Haslam. Don't hold your breath that he won't sign it.

The Tennessee legislature is all about protecting Second Amendment rights. The First Amendment? Not so much, apparently.

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