It’s an All-Fred Morning!
Every day, Ethics Alarms head scout Fred sends me multiple suggestions for posts from he finds heaven-know-where. Even when I can’t fit them in, they often serve as references and always are enlightening.
1. I suspect this belongs in the Polarized Nation of Assholes files: For two years, since he returned from service combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lieutenant Commander Joshua Corney, has kept his promise to salute his fallen comrades in arms by playing a recording of Taps every evening before 8:00 p.m on his five-acre property in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. It takes 57 seconds. It does not exceed volume limits. My dog barks longer that that every night after midnight when we put him out. Nonetheless, some of Corney’s neighbors have filed objections with the borough. Now Glen Rock, which allows church bells to ring, among other sounds, ordered Corney to limit the playing of taps to Sundays and what it termed “flag holidays.” Each violation of the borough’s order would bring a criminal fine of 300 dollars. But the borough’s enforcement action involves two big constitutional no-nos: the heckler’s veto and content-based censorship. The borough is relying on a nuisance ordinance that prohibits sound that “annoys or disturbs” others, and just one individual annoyed by the somber Civil War era bugle solo is enough to deliver a “heckler’s veto.’
“If a “heckler” could shut down anyone who said or played something that annoyed or offended them by complaining to government officials, freedom of speech would be no more. For more than 75 years, it has been black letter First Amendment law that the government cannot censor speech simply because it is not universally appreciated.
Moreover, the borough cannot use its vague nuisance ordinance to single out only Lt. Commander Corney’s musical expression for censorship from the range of sounds that are part of the borough’s regular sonic landscape. The borough has not ordered Lt. Commander Corney to lower the volume of taps or claimed he has violated a noise-level ordinance.
And it could not claim such a violation because the recording neither exceeds any established noise levels nor is it as loud as many other sounds the borough tolerates — including many sounds that do not communicate a message, like lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and vehicles. Censoring clearly protected expression, like taps, for being too loud, while allowing louder sounds that carry no constitutionally protected message turns the First Amendment on its head.”
Bingo. It is in cases like these that the American Civil Liberties Union shows how essential its role is in protecting the freedoms here that are so frequently under attack.
2. I was surprised when I learned some time ago that undercover police officers used to routinely have sexual relations with prostitutes before arresting them (homosexuals too, when they werebeing persecuted and prosecuted). Just two months ago, Michigan became the last state in the U.S. to make it illegal for police officers to have sexual intercourse with prostitutes in the course of an under-cover (or covers) sting. Now Alaska wants to go an additional step, banning “sexual contact” with “sex workers” entirely. This could be mere touching or kissing. Advocates of Alaska’s House Bill 73 and Senate Bill 112 argue that police catching sex workers in the act by engaging with them sexually is a human rights violation, and Amnesty International has made an official statement supporting that claim: “Such conduct is an abuse of authority and in some instances amounts to rape and/or entrapment.” Police, quite logically, point out that the bill would make successful undercover investigations impossible, which is, of course, the whole idea.
“[The prostitutes] ask one simple question: ‘Touch my breast.’ OK, I’m out of the car. Done. And the case is over,” Anchorage Police Department Deputy Chief Sean Case told the Alaska Dispatch News in a hypothetical example. “If we make that act (of touching) a misdemeanor, we have absolutely no way of getting involved in that type of arrest.”
Ethics Alarms is anti-prostitution. As with recreational drug use and probably polygamy, prostitution, which harms families and the young women and men exploited and abused to support it, is almost certainly on the road to legalization. Government won’t protect vital society ethics norms, but it will order you to buy health insurance because it’s for your own good. Continue reading