Friday, June 24, 2005

A bad week for the First Amendment

The House of Representatives passed the "Flag Desecration Amendment" to outlaw burning of the US flag. While this is nothing new (this passes the House every year or two), this year it has a very real possibility of passing the Senate as well.

The Supreme Court ruled that private property can be condemned and seized by the government (using the principle of eminent domain) and then given to another private party. In other words, the county can seize your house to allow Wal-Mart to build a supercenter. The good news is that it was a narrow 5-4 decision allowing states to set law in this regard; ;individual states can outlaw this type of seizure (and several have).

A law taking effect this week requires pornographers to obtain (and maintain indefinitely) detailed records on all "performers". This one has obviously gotten less media coverage than the prior issues, but it is just as egregious. I have no objection to the initial data collection, but like any other business, pornographers should only be required to maintain the documentation for a limited time. The biggest problem with this law, however, is that it applies retroactively to "any book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, or other matter which contains one or more visual depictions made after November 1, 1990 of actual sexually explicit conduct." In other words, it is retroactive 15 years!

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