South Dakota Lawmakers Need Refresher on Free Speech [OPINION]
I don’t know how it’s possible that our legislators keep trying to do things that are so clearly unconstitutional. The latest example is a proposal by Rep. Sue Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, to make it illegal to alter the South Dakota state seal in any way.
I’ve said more than once on The Patrick Lalley Show that House Speaker Mark Mickelson’s plan to ban out of state money in ballot initiative campaigns is a blatant limit on free speech. So is the seal bill.
It’s the state seal. It’s not sacred. If I want to rip it up and eat it on the steps of the Capitol and film the experience and share it on Facebook, I will. There’s nothing you can do about it and there never should be.
If I want to change the words to "In Buddah We Trust." I will. There’s nothing you can do about it and there never should be.
If I want to replace the image of rolling hills with an anime likeness of Bill Janklow in jail, I will. There’s nothing you can do about it and there never should be.
That’s satire. That’s political speech. There’s nothing more engrained in the Constitution than free speech. Why Rep. Peterson thinks she can do this is beyond me. Either she doesn’t have a basic understanding of the concept of satire and free speech or she doesn’t care. I’m not sure which is worse.
Robert Mehling, host of the Sioux Empire Podcast and friend of The Patrick Lalley Show, believes the bill is a direct reaction to a cartoon he drew with a scene from the Spanish Inquisition to draw attention to the practice of some South Dakota law enforcement using forced catheterization to collect urine samples.
"I worry it’s a distraction from the very real damage they (The South Dakota State Legislature) are purposefully carrying out against ballot initiatives," Mehling wrote on his blog at TheSiouxEmpire.com. "The South Dakota State Legislature thinks South Dakotans are too stupid to govern themselves and don’t even understand the basics of the First Amendment."
Peterson told the Argus Leader that her bill was not a result of Mehling's cartoon. The issue came to her attention when legislators noticed the seal on their state apparel lacked the state motto, Peterson said.
“I think it’s because the women’s prison does it for us and I think they just didn’t have the right piece,” Peterson said. “I am aware that there have been misuses of the seal, there were some people who would cut it in half to take artistic license with it. It’s a branding issue and it (the seal) needs to be honored and respected.”
No it doesn’t. It’s a seal. It’s not even the flag, which also shouldn’t be protected in this way.
And then she said this: “Anybody that is using it in a way that is not consistent with the Constitution and state law should take a look at it and not do it anymore,” Peterson said.
Which leads me to believe she’s just unfamiliar with the principals of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The bill would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to alter the seal or not include the Under God the People Rule slogan.
So using the example Peterson cited – that the women’s prison left off the words – who would be charged? The prisoners? The warden? The state?
How about we give some thought to a law before we propose it?
Apparently there’s not a lot of that going on in Pierre these days.
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