Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Doubleplusungood Crimethink

HB131 would restrict street preachers' ability to access Mormons at their conferences. It's based on a Colorado law that restricts abortion protesters' ability to communicate with people entering an abortion facility.

I like the idea of restricting certain activities within 100 feet-- I think that's far enough that the protesters can still be seen but not interfere. But the part of the law that gives me the heebie-jeebies is the part that prohibits "knowingly approaching within eight feet of a person" for certain specified purposes. The eight-foot radius is fine; it's the legislation of whether or not a person knew or intended something that bothers me. If you intentionally walk backward toward someone while shouting your slogan, does it count as "knowingly" since you couldn't see them? If you "accidentally" bump into someone and drop your flyers, and the person helps you pick them up, does it count as "distributing flyers"?

Moreover, the provision that allows protesters to be sued without a prior conviction disturbs me. This bill would make possible civil suits where punitive damages could be collected for merely using an opposing viewpoint when speaking. Don't think it could happen? What if you were eight feet one inch from Person A, and Person A thought you were seven feet eleven inches, and you held out a flyer to Person A? Person A could then sue you for punitive damages and win, even if you were acquitted of the charge of passing out flyers within 8 feet of Person A. Thus even though you had committed no crime, you could be subject to punitive damages just for expressing an opposing viewpoint within 100 feet of a place of worship. I don't think that's right.

The abortion protest law has already been ruled constitutional, but not everything that is constitutional is morally right, and there's nothing in the constitution that gives you a "right" to be protected from dissenting viewpoints.

I'm not partial to the street protesters. I'm not fond of abortions either. But I sure as hell don't like legislators making it possible to sue someone for having an opposing viewpoint too close to somebody else. To me, that's just un-American, even if it is constitutional.