Scratch Brussels off of the Vacation List

ABC reports that Brussels, Belgium has passed rules fining people between €75 and €250  for using insulting or offensive language.

“Any form of insult is from now on [is] punishable, whether it be racist, homophobic or otherwise,” Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans’ spokesperson quoted him as saying, according to the Telegraph.

This calls for another letter. Second one in a single day, too.

Dear Mayor Thielemans:

Go fuck yourself, you miserable, fat, Belgian bastard.

Sincerely,
VPJ

Guess I can kiss that Brussels vacation goodbye now.

ht PJ Media

Update: I knew this sounded familiar

 

Censorship by Proxy

Walter Olson of Overlawyered has another story of an elected official using the power of his office to (at best) criticize the speech of a private citizen (at worst, a veiled threat in a nice-place-ya-got-here-shame-if-somethin’-were-to-happen sort of way).  It seems that Delegate Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County) is not a big fan of same-sex marriage or those that openly agitate for it to become legal and sent a letter to the employer of said private citizen on official stationary.

Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County), an opponent of same-sex marriage, fired off a letter to the owner [PDF] of the Baltimore Ravens on legislative stationery demanding that he silence Brendon Ayanbadejo…

Mr. Olson also has a challenge for the conservative commentariat:

Pretty much every conservative commentator in America (properly) denounced the Boston mayor and Chicago alderman for menacing Chick-Fil-A. I hope some of them will speak up against this abuse of government office as well.

I consider myself a libertarian, but it seemed like a good idea, so Mr. Olson, you may consider it done.

Dear Del. Burns:

What in God’s name are you thinking when you send a letter to a private citizen’s employer on your official letterhead?  Are you so consumed by outrageous outrage that you don’t stop to think about the veiled threat that is communicated by this letter?  What kind of a censorious thug would insist that a company  “inhibit such expressions from your employee”?  Especially when the subject matter is one that is currently being hotly debated in the public arena.  And most especially when the request is made by an individual who writes the rules that said company will need to operate under, an individual who can certainly make life much more difficult if he wished to do so.

I fully recognize that, as a private company, the Baltimore Ravens can set limits on the speech of their employees that the government could not.  To go around the First Amendment and ask that a private company do what you cannot is reprehensible.

Like Alderman Moreno and Mayor Menino, you have violated your oath to uphold the constitution.

Regards,
VPJ

Congress Makes the Tough Decision to Eviscerate the First Amendment in Order to Punish a Group Everyone Hates Anyway

What brings together a conservative blowhard blog, a hard-left-leaning-liberal rag, and a group of ungenerous “anarchists, monarchists, or social democrats”?  A disdain for the Westboro Baptist Church is one thing.  More importantly, however, is a shared dislike for the pandering, anti-first-amendment portion of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act.  According to the Army Times, there are more than 50 provisions in the bill, most of which are relatively non-controversial or even necessary.  However, one of these provisions is not quite so harmless.

Under the new legislation, protests must be held at least 300 feet from military funerals and are prohibited two hours before or after a service. The law counters a 2011 Supreme Court ruling, which found that displays such as Westboro’s were protected under the First Amendment.

Popehat (in a post I’ve already linked once) takes the law to task in their own unique style, with even more fun to be had in the comments.  Hot Air opines on the law in two separate posts, but both express similar concerns.

I hate to say it, but this certainly does smell of pandering. There’s no easier path to public praise for politicians than to do something to support our military and veterans. (And rightly so.) But there’s a difference between doing something substantive to help them and just passing a bill which you know will get shot down just so you can look like you’re being tough on the protesters. If the government can regulate speech to the point where they can prevent you from showing up two hours before until two hours after an event, that would be a precedent which could very quickly get out of control.

Westboro baptist is a truly vile and hateful group, but as American citizens, they have the right to be hateful and vile.  It’s something the supreme court recently reminded us about.  I’m somewhat surprised that no one seems to have mentioned it to the congresscritters that voted for this.  In addition, I suspect that the Westboro clowns have their lawyer on speed dial, or at least within sermonizing distance.  This would be the very same lawyer that successfully argued this very issue in front of the supreme court.  So not only is this a simple look-what-I-did for congress to give to mommy to stick up on the fridge, it’s ultimately doomed to failure.  We can only hope that only a few tax dollars get flushed down the crapper during the inevitable court fight.

Meanwhile, first amendment lawyer Marc Randazza reminds us of a much simpler and cheaper solution.

Edit: Fixed speling errer in hedline
Edit:  Made some minor word and format changes.
Edit:  Dustin points out in the comments that the lawyer for the Westboro Baptist Church is the daughter of Rev. Phelps.  I’ve made a clarification.