Greetings, First Amendment fans! Be sure to check out this blog for bi-weekly posts written by our journal’s staff members in addition to these Newsflashes–run-downs of recent First Amendment news. Here are some particularly interesting headlines:
Republican Rep. Brady Brammer of Utah has introduced a bill which would require pornographic material to carry warning labels–similar to that of California’s requiring of warning label requirements for toxic materials. The bill would penalize failure to warn with a $2500 fine. Critics have been quick to note that the bill has the potential to be over-broad in its requirements as it contains no definition of “pornography.” Moreover, others note that it essentially compels speech in requiring creators of porn to convey a warning message against their will. Utah joins nearly a dozen states which have raised similar resolutions in the past few years.
People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) has long criticized Texas A&M University over its use of animals for medical research. Most recently, the organization brought a lawsuit against the university on First Amendment grounds alleging that the school utilized filters on Facebook to hide content specifically related to its use of dogs in for research purposes. While Texas A&M did not concede that intentionally filtered Facebook content, it did agree, as a part of the settlement, “not to exercise in viewpoint discrimination.”
In 2016, Tennessee lawmakers attempted to designate the Bible as the state’s official state book. Gov. Bill Haslam quickly vetoed the bill. Nearly four years later, lawmakers have again proposed a bill to renew the effort to establish the text as the state’s official book. Gov. Haslam is expected to again veto on legal and religious grounds. As he argued in 2016: “To put the Bible on the state, the same level as the state rock or the state tree, that’s not what the Bible is….I don’t think that people have to leave their faith at the door when they do work in the public square, but the Tennessee Constitution is very explicit about not establishing religion.”
The National Press Club is attempting to raise First Amendment issues among the remaining Democratic primary candidates. Earlier this year, the national organization “asked each potential presidential nominee for his or her perspective on important press freedom issues.” To date, the Press Club has reported that only candidate Michael Bloomberg has responded to the questions, noting that the former New York mayor believes that the president “should be a firm and outspoken champion of the Fourth Estate.”