Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Weirdness in Wisconsin

Nude dancing, flag defiling and the `Politician Protection Plan'

By James A. Buchen, Vice President, WMC

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the First Amendment is sacred.

For nude dancers: "The First Amendment to the United States Constitution applies universally to all communities within its borders. A violation of the First Amendment is just as chilling in a small rural community as it is in a metropolitan area," the court ruled in June 1998. In that case, the court ruled that an ordinance banning nude dancing was overly broad and "chilled" free speech.

For flag desecrators: In another June 1998 ruling, the Court said: "We are confident in our prediction that fear of prosecution under this portion of the statute is likely to dissuade the citizens of this state from expressing themselves in a constitutionally protected manner." The court struck down Wisconsin's ban on flag mutilation for violating the free speech provisions of First Amendment.

All this freedom breaking out - especially at election time -- has apparently sent a majority of the state Senate into a freedom-limiting tizzy. Not to ban nude dancing or flag burning, however.

The state Senators have voted to exempt themselves from the First Amendment. The Assembly will soon consider the bill - SB 2 - that puts a 60-day time limit on political ads that discuss the voting record of elected officials. It's the "Politician Protection Plan."

So let's all get this straight. Freedom for nude dancers. Constitutional protection for flag burners. And punishment under the "Politician Protection Plan" for people who want to publicize their local senator's voting record on taxes, regulation, environment, human rights, or economic development within 60 days of an election.

Does this make any sense? SB 2 is a naked attempt to burn the First Amendment. The Assembly should kill this unconstitutional bill. If passed, the nude dancer would have a greater right to dance naked on the bar than to run a newspaper ad criticizing the politician who wants to ban nude dancing.

The flag burner would have a greater right to burn the flag than to run a radio ad criticizing the politicians who want to ban flag burning. Again, does this make any sense?

Yes, it is troubling that the First Amendment has been extended to include acts that are not pure speech. What's even more troubling is that the politicians are attempting to ban the very political speech - words and ideas about issues and candidates - that the First Amendment was written to protect.

SB 2 is an attempt to take away our legitimate political speech rights in the name of "campaign finance reform."

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government can only regulate our political speech if we spend money to tell each other for whom to cast a ballot. That's it. Everything else is free speech. The politicians don't like that because it holds them accountable.

We should fight back. Wisconsin residents should call 1-800-362-9472 and tell their Assembly member to oppose SB 2. Or we will live in a state where nude dancing and flag burning are sacred under the First Amendment and the politicians are sacred cows - untouchable and unaccountable.

c. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. All rights reserved. 501 E Washington Ave., Madison, WI 53703, (608) 258-3400

Originally published Sept. 10, 2004. Original link:

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