Politics

The (almost) unbelievable case of censorship in Colorado

The (almost) unbelievable case of censorship in Colorado

I’m sorry I missed this earlier. But when I lived in Denver, I would often see pro-life activists in peaceful protests around the city — outside clinics, as well as other buildings. Well, in March of 2006, during one such protest in front Denver’s St. John’s Cathedral, a church that now supports abortion rights, protesters, as they often do, held signs with slogans and others with pictures of aborted fetuses.

In the name of protecting children (and please take in the repulsive irony), a lawsuit was filed, alleging that the protesters were a private nuisance. It sought to enjoin any public displays of “gruesome” images.

The Colorado Appellate Court upheld the injunction. If a Supreme Court does not overturn the ruling,  individuals can no longer display “large posters or similar displays depicting gruesome images of mutilated fetuses or dead bodies,” Denver will have set a terrible precedent on freedom of expression.

Now, a number of groups have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn the ban (Professor Eugene Volokh of the “Volokh Conspiracy,” drafted the petition).

I don’t know if these types of signs are effective, but I do know legitimate political expression when I see it. Certainly, the gruesomeness of the photos is expressing concern over the gruesomeness of the procedure. If this ban survives (and authorities treat all protests equally) in Denver, a Jew would no longer be able to protest neo-Nazis with images of the Holocaust and anti-war protesters would no longer be able to hold up images depicting  the real violence of war.

As Andrew McCarthy points out:

As the AFLC amicus brief explains, this flies in the face of First Amendment precedent holding that the Constitution does not permit the suppression of legitimate political expression “solely to protect the young from ideas or images that [the government] thinks unsuitable for them.” Given that we are not living in a sharia state, moreover, political argument may not be prohibited merely because it expresses ideas that members of society may find “offensive or disagreeable” — as the Supreme Court reaffirmed in the 2011 case of Snyder v. Phelps.

Then, of course, there are few things more offensive or disagreeable than courts limiting the right  of Americans to freely express themselves.

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Follow David Harsanyi on Twitter @davidharsanyi.

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