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23 July 2010

Strange Bedfellows: Paul Broun & The ACLU Actually Agree On Something

It's an odd day in Georgia politics when a conservative Republican is on the same side of an issue with the liberal American Civil Liberties Union, but that is exactly the case regarding a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week.

On a vote of 416 - 3, the House passed House Resolution 5566; a bill that would ban animal crush videos [SOURCE: Roll Call 459]. Congressman Paul Broun (R - Georgia) was one of three Republicans to vote against the bill.

Broun's vote prompted critcism from Democrat Russell Edwards. Edwards, who hopes to unseat Broun this November, said in a news release the Athens Republican's "values are at odds with the good-natured citizens of District 10" [SOURCE: Russell Edwards.com]

"Broun, Jr. sided with the deviants on this vote, yet further proof that he is an utter embarrassment," Edwards said.

Broun, however, said his vote against H.R. 5566 was not a vote for animal crush videos; but a vote against eroding First Amendment rights [Aued, Blake (2010-7-23). Broun opposes ban on animal abuse videos. Athens Banner Herald. Retrieved on 2010-7-23.]. Broun's sentiment is one shared by the ACLU.

The ACLU sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to vote down H.R. 5556.

While this bill is a well-intentioned effort to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Stevens earlier this year, it fails to fully resolve the overbreadth problem with the prior law cited by the court. Moreover, H.R. 5566 creates ambiguity surrounding the established standard for banned obscenity, thereby possibly opening the door to banning other forms of disfavored content.

Finally, if the bill is effective in banning the sale and distribution of depictions of animal cruelty it is intended to ban, it arguably would also ban the sale and distribution of those same depictions by animal rights groups and other who use the depictions in advocating for the elimination of animal cruelty and other legitimate purposes. How ironic if a bill intended to prevent animal cruelty actually inhibits the advocacy of those dedicated to achieving that goal.

Writing on the ACLU blog Thursday, Lucas Tanglen said, "Most of us don’t have much sympathy for people who enjoy seeing animals tortured and killed. Maybe there’s a way for Congress to fight this cruelty without infringing on a wide swath of protected speech. But the bill the House just passed makes the familiar mistake of sacrificing too much free speech." [Tanglen, Lucas (2010-7-22). House Misses Free Speech Lessons of Animal Cruelty Case. Blog of Rights. Retrieved on 2010-7-23.]

How ironic that a progressive Democrat, who's in competition for an endorsement from the progressive organization Democracy for America, is at odds with the ACLU.