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Susan Estrich
23 Jul 2014
False Equivalence

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9 Jul 2014
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The First Amendment and Animals

Comment

Let me be clear at the outset: I love dogs. Not like them, love them. Of course, I love mine the best: Judy J. Estrich, Molly Emily Estrich and Irving A. Estrich. Judy is named after one of my dearest friends, Judy Jarvis, who died of cancer 10 years ago. Molly is named after her dog, who took care of her when she was sick and taught me not to be afraid of big dogs. Irving is named for my father. I would kill anybody who laid a hand on them.

That is why I so strongly support the efforts of Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Rep. James Moran, D-Va., to enact legislation aimed at prohibiting the sale and distribution of "crush" videos depicting senseless and vicious animal cruelty.

In 1999, according to the Humane Society of the United States, there were as many as 3,000 videos on the market depicting animals being crushed, burned or impaled for so-called "entertainment" value. After Gallegly's initial bill was enacted, the market disappeared. But earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court held that law to be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, finding that it swept too broadly and could be construed to apply (even though no one ever has) even to hunting videos.

Videos of women in high heels crushing puppies to death are a far cry from hunting videos. I'm glad that the conservative court has embraced the First Amendment, which they don't always do. But nothing in the First Amendment allows for the celebration of criminal cruelty. Just as we protect children through carefully tailored bans on child pornography, so should we be entitled to protect animals from the effects of gratuitous and criminal violence.

In 2008, a federal court of appeals struck down the law that Gallegly championed.

Subsequently, the Humane Society found that the blatantly offensive videos that had disappeared from the market in 1999 were all over the Internet.

I was teaching a First Amendment class at that time and remember assigning my students the task of finding the "outer limit" of protected speech. I don't shock easily, but I was shocked. What kind of a person would make such things or watch them?

I understand the dangers of content-based regulation. I understand that the answer to bad ideas is debate and not censorship. But I am hard-pressed to come up with any argument as to the value of protecting depictions of criminal cruelty and the brutal murder of animals. These are not hunting videos we are talking about. They aren't images of slaughterhouses. Staging such events would be criminal (just ask Michael Vick), and recording them and selling them should be, too.

The new bill introduced by Gallegly and Moran this week would prohibit the interstate sale of images of animals being "intentionally crushed, burned, drowned or impaled" unless they have "religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historic or artistic value." Punishment is up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The draft bill, in an effort to satisfy First Amendment critics (including those in robes), specifically provides that it does not apply to hunting videos.

Don't expect all the critics to be satisfied. Andrew Tauber, an attorney who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court, is already being quoted today criticizing the bill as "presumptively unconstitutional." A new round of court challenges should be expected. Sign me up.

There's a famous Harry Truman quote I've always loved: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." Dogs are lucky to have good friends in Gallegly and Moran. They just need a few more on the court.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Comments

1 Comments | Post Comment
Reference: "What's wrong in Arizona"

Once again the real issues have been ignored.
We need to remember the two words "illegal" and "undocumented."

I have worked in the Middle East, Central and South America.
If you are caught by the local authorities without your required documentation
you will be immediately deported - if not arrested and held prior to. No legal
counsel, no trial or advocates shouting out discrimination.

Racial profiling? As an obvious outsider, I was daily approached by local
military, police officers and security as to my status, reason for being in the
country, contacts to support my status and to review my documentation. I went
nowhere without my passport. In fact, I kept a second in my apartment just
in case my original was lost or stolen.

In addition, I was also expected to speak the language or have my own interpreter
present. No effort was made to post signs and instructions in English to make my
life easier.

As an employer, I have no problems with immigrants trying to improve their
living conditions. Many have worked with me, not only in labor capacities, but as
supervisors and fellow inspectors.

As a citizen of the USA, however, I must insist that they obtain employment legally
just as others have come before. If we do not agree with our required entrance
policies then lets change them, but don't come against those who are simply trying
to follow the law of the land as presented. If the Federal Goverment will not address
the issues, nor enforce the laws "they" created...then the States are going to.

If you want to point fingers...do so in the right direction. Challenge...work "with" the
States and local organizations to force Congress to change entrance requirements
and reform our immigration programs.

In the mean time, however, we will continue to empower our local officials and State
representatives to enforce the current laws. Undocumented workers and illegal status
individuals (whether criminal or not) will continue to be deported until our government
position changes.

Michael Buchman
Comment: #1
Posted by: michael buchman
Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:01 AM
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