July 18, 2008 | | Comments Off on Apophasis

With all of the chatter around the Supreme Court’s recent Heller, Boumediene, and Kennedy decisions, it has been easy to overlook some interesting cases making their way through other parts of the court system. For instance, Center for Bio-Ethical Reform v. Los Angeles County Sheriff Department, No. 05-55294, slip op. (9th Cir., July 2, 2008).

Without going into too much detail, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform is an anti-abortion organization that works to “expose as many people as possible to the reality of abortion.” In this case, CBER did it by driving a billboard truck with pictures of aborted fetuses around and parking it by a Los Angeles middle school as students arrived for class in the morning. Two deputy sheriffs made CBER move the truck, citing Cal. Penal Code § 626.8, a state criminal statute prohibiting “disruptive entry” on school grounds. The ultraconservative Thomas More Law Center represented CBER in its suit against the L.A. County Sheriff. On Wednesday, the 9th Circuit very reasonably ruled that the deputies violated CBER’s First Amendment rights.

On Thursday CBER issued a celebratory press release that contained this gem: “The First Amendment means nothing if it doesn’t mean the right to show people things they don’t want to see.” That’s not a perfect definition by any means, but I for one am thrilled to see CBER taking the First Amendment so seriously.

Which raises a question in my mind… Why on earth would staunch defenders of the First Amendment like CBER want to associate with the Thomas More Law Center? This is the organization, after all, that has pulled out all the stops to prevent Summum’s Seven Aphorisms to go on display in Utah parks. I can only assume that Thomas More’s attorneys had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus (or 1 First Street as the case may be, since that’s where Summum is heading).

Regardless, I welcome CBER’s support. I can’t wait to see its backers and supporters weigh in against the FCC’s heavy-handed indecency enforcement policies. After all, the First Amendment means nothing if it doesn’t mean the right to broadcast Charlotte Ross’s bare posterior or Bono’s profanity even if some people don’t want to see or hear them. And I can’t wait to read their amicus brief in Summum’s support, since the First Amendment means nothing if it doesn’t mean the right to teach people about mummification and telekinesis even if they would rather their Ten Commandments monuments stand alone.

Frankly, it’s always nice to see more voices coming out in support of free speech and free expression, especially since there are so many people and organizations out there that only support the right when the speech or expression is something they agree with. Thank you, CBER, for showing us that your organization is not one of these cynical and hypocritical groups.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user wfyurasko.

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