Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Are lies free speech?

SCOTUS seems to think so

The Supreme Court delivered a major victory on Monday to an anti-abortion group that sought to challenge an Ohio law that bans campaign statements deemed to be false.

The justices, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the Susan B. Anthony List can go ahead with a lawsuit challenging the law as a violation of free-speech rights.

Both liberal and conservative groups have criticized the law, saying it has a chilling effect on political speech. Even Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine declined to defend the law in court, sending his deputies to argue for the state.

The Susan B. Anthony List was accused of violating the law during the 2010 election, when it accused then-Ohio Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortion because he backed the new health care law.

Driehaus threatened to take them before the Ohio commission that reviews the accuracy of political ads.

Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas cited concerns about the chilling effect on groups wishing to run political ads.

Thomas said the existence of the law already has a chilling effect on political speech because people and interest groups have reason to believe their statements may be censured. The court warned that the law could impose "burdens" on "electoral speech."

The case began during the 2010 election when the Susan B. Anthony List planned to put up billboards ads attacking Driehaus. The ads accused Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortion because he supported President Obama's new health care law. Driehaus, a Democrat who opposes abortion, claimed the ads misrepresented the true facts and therefore violated the false speech law.

After Driehaus filed a formal complaint, the billboard owner feared legal action and declined to post the ads. The Ohio Elections Commission found probable cause that the ads violated the law, but Driehaus later dropped the case after losing his re-election bid. 



Bird of Paradise said...

Lies are free speech liberal politicians use them to get elected just look at Barack Obama

Anonymous said...

Since when has truth been a requirement of political advertising?

Anonymous said...

And just whom shall be entrusted with determining the truth? Judges, the politicians that appoint them, the "watchdog" press, the oh so educated professors of the academy? Hah, corrupt all.

Stan B said...

The problem is that this case turns on one of those "Obi-Wan" truths - i.e. the advertisement was true, "from a certain point of view."

If you are virulently anti-abortion, and the candidate you oppose voted for the Affordable Care Act which requires insurance to cover contraceptives which can also be abortifacient, then the candidate could be said to have "supported abortion," despite any and all statements that he may say contrary to that vote.

Actions, in this case, would indicate that the candidate is at least willing to pay for abortion inducing drugs with federal money.

The group in question accused him of being "pro-abortion" based on the vote, and some government bureaucracy in Ohio tasked with gleaning the truth and the intent of the candidate and the advertisers (and probably stacked with liberals) said the advertisement was false. I think that's for the public to decide, but it clearly falls within "free speech."