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Nooooooooo!

Nooooooooo!

Thanks to reader Phil for alerting me to this very troubling development:

Stricter offensive bumper sticker law takes effect

Starting Friday [July 1], Tennessee drivers caught with obscene or patently offensive bumper stickers, window signs or other markings on their vehicle visible to other drivers face an automatic $50 fine….

Tennessee code 55-8-187 had allowed judges to decide on a fine from $2 to $50 based on their opinion.

Democratic State Representative Gary Moore, of Joelton, however, co-sponsored a House bill to stiffen the fine after he got several angry calls from constituents.

“On two different instances they had their children in the car with them and they pulled up on a vehicle that had an obscene bumper sticker,” he said.  “I think it will make drivers a little more aware that there is a law out there.”

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Comments

It’s Tennessee. Home of Tennessee vs. Scopes. What can you expect?

Well, that “Coexist” bumper sticker really ticks me off. (On second thought, I guess it’s more of a warning as to the driver’s mental capacity, so it’s okay.)

What part of the First Amendment do they not understand down there in Tennessee? Sounds like Glenn has his work cut out for him.

Will there be a fine for all the idiots that claim to be “disturbed, distraught, etc etc” by bumper stickers and a judge finds the sticker ‘acceptable’.

I can see the formation of a citizen “bumper sticker enforcement” group that could clog the system with thousands of complaints.

Seems like a waste of law enforcement resources to me. “Loser Pays” will curb some of the enthusiasm.

It’s payback for shunning Al Gore.

All pro-Obama bumper stickers offend me. Same goes for the pro-union messages. Off with them!

Boy, should that law kick into high gear, something as innocuous as “1.20.13” could easily be considered offensive by the Left.

http://www.cafepress.com/+12013_euro_oval_sticker,346265746

The language of the statute does say that the bumper sticker has to be “obscene and patently offensive” in order to be punished under the law (http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-55/chapter-8/55-8-187/). That means that unless it appeals to the prurient interest, depicts or describes sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value, the bumper sticker is protected — at least if the standards set by the US Supreme Court are applied to the vehicular display.

Thus a bumper sticker that says “F*ck Obama” could not be subject to fine (it arguably has serious political value — see Cohen v. California), nor could the expression of religious sentiments opposed by the bulk of the community be banned. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine any sort of commonly available bumper sticker that this statute would constitutionally permit. And i somehow doubt that this statute would result in a ban of the ubiquitous stickers of the cartoon character Calvin urinating or defecating on a disfavored item — after all, I’m unaware of such things stimulating the prurient interest of any normal individual.

And therein lies the problem. This statute does not seek to ban obscenity — after all, I’m certain Tennessee already has a statute that does that. More likely, it seeks to ban profanity — and as the courts have ruled time and again, that is generally beyond the scope of government power due to the First Amendment. But that is why this particular statute is troublesome — it clearly is an effort to discourage speech that is constitutionally protected. So while the statute may pass constitutional muster as written, its most likely application will not be.

Could there be a bumper sticker more offensive, even obscene, as one that reads, “Reelect Gary Moore”?

Henry Bowman | July 5, 2011 at 10:14 am

Apparently the law has been on the books for quite a while. The current change to the law is simply to specify the fine ($50). It would be interesting to find out how many have actually been cited in the past for violating this absurd law.

pilgrim1949 | July 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

The pictured bumper sticker is one of my favorite stellar example of the oxy(and-other)moronic, ersatz mental processes that proudly and all-too-commonly pass for thought among the Loony Lib fringe.

The irony represented in this naive plea is completely lost on these self-deceived fools — that the right-most symbol willingly allows everyone the freedom to disagree even to the point of what is perceived to be their own destruction and yet gives itself sacrificially to “save” the reader from that fate, whereas the very first symbol stands in total opposition to the sticker’s lofty stated Utopian proposition. The adherents to the first symbol are dismetrically and to-the-death committed to the destruction of all that is represented by each of the subsequent symbols. (Sort of poised like a latter-day Pac-Man, ready to devour everything in its path…munch, munch, munch.)

You might say that it’s an utter failure in symobolic (and any other kind of) logic…

This could pose a huge problem for motorists. Whether obnoxious, rude, or obscene, those “clever” bumper stickers are nothing more than a way to identify the crazier a$$holes and/or liberals on our roads and highways.

homas tardy | July 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Prurience is a state of mind. Who’s to say a “Deep Throat” sticker isn’t a political/ social statement (about Watergate, oval office rugs or raising esophageal cancer awareness) and “Damn Democrats” a religious conviction?

OTOH, “Just Do It” sounds pretty darn dirty to me…

I can see where it’s coming from– we’ve started to see actually pornographic stickers, up here. (I do not need to see a succubus “servicing” a Victoria Secret style angel, and neither does my daughter.) Also un-beeped versions of “F* You” and similar.

They didn’t write the law correctly, but I understand where they’re coming from.

1. RhymesWithRight | July 5, 2011 at 9:48 am

The language of the statute does say that the bumper sticker has to be “obscene and patently offensive” in order to be punished under the law…

unfortunately, according to RWR’s link, the law uses both “obscene and patently offensive” and “obscene and patently offensive”. IMHO this indicates how carefully the statute was written.

2. Or maybe the statute was deliberately crafted to be applicable beyond its supposed intent. (We have to give law enforcement the “tools” they need. /sarc)

3. According to Bill’s link, movies playing inside cars are also covered.

4. The link quotes the wisdom of Rep Gary Moore: “When you get into crossing the line so to speak you do not have a right to impose your speech on other people,” he said. (p)He also suggested people report vehicles to the police if they view something on someone else’s car that they think is obscene or patently offensive.

An adult film played in a car is imposition of speech?

5. At first I thought Bill was overreacting but now I hope the ACLU gets involved.

Gary Moore is unfit for public office.

Bad laws can entrench themselves and are especially hard to mitigate if they were passed “for the children”. With all respect to Foxfier’s legitimate concerns, this is a case of government “solving” a problem by opening the door to even worse problems.

    JEBurke in reply to gs. | July 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I am not at all a First Amendment purist. Far from it. But if anything qualifies as protected political speech, it’s any one of the myriad of bumper strips proclaiming some cause, even if it is obscene.

    Here’s a way for Tennesseans to challenge this loopy law. Print up bumper strips that say, “F–k anti-bumper sticker laws”

Alan Kellogg | July 5, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Everything is offensive to somebody.

What will they do with the sticker “Fook Free Speech!”?

Scopes…? Rifle scopes…?

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