New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week signed into law an anti-“hate speech” bill that he admitted likely clashes with the First Amendment.
Cuomo has suggested “certain technical changes, but constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley contends there’s only one way to fix it: “Rescind the law.”
The New York Post reported the bill bans the sale of “hate symbols” on state property such as the Confederate flag or the swastika, unless they serve an “educational or historical” purpose.
Cuomo praised the concept.
“By limiting the display and sale of the confederate flag, Nazi swastika and other symbols of hatred from being displayed or sold on state property, including the state fairgrounds, this will help safeguard New Yorkers from the fear-installing effects of these abhorrent symbols,” he said.
Cuomo, who is being considered by Joe Biden as an attorney general nominee, said “certain technical changes are necessary to balance the state’s interests in preventing the use of hate symbols on state land with free speech protections embodied in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Turley said the first “technical change” would be “to rescind the law.”
“The First Amendment is not designed to protect popular speech,” he argued. “We do not need protection for speech that people support. The test of free speech is to support those with whom you disagree and speech that you oppose. This is one such case. In my view, the Cuomo legislation is a violation of the First Amendment.”
Turley often has expressed concern about “the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in Europe.”
“Indeed, Norway recently criminalized private speech at home deemed hateful or offensive,” he noted. “Indeed, this legislation follows the European view that has destroyed free speech on that continent.”
He pointed out that the law only allows for the sale or displays if they serve “an educational or historical purpose.”
“What if they serve social, ideological, political, or literary purposes? Those are also protected under the First Amendment,” he argued.
“Moreover, it allows for the barring of images that are not limited to the broad definition of ‘symbols of white supremacy, neo-Nazi ideology or the battle flag of the Confederacy.’ Rather, it is covers a wide array of undefined ‘symbols of hate.’ Many people differ on what groups or symbols they deem ‘hateful.’ The legislation is an invitation for plunging down the slippery slope of censorship.
“I do not know when the Democratic Party became the party for censorship but attacks on free speech are now rallying points on the left. We have been discussing how writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. The erosion of free speech has been radically accelerated by the Big Tech and social media companies. This law in my view is flagrantly unconstitutional and should be immediately challenged in federal court.”
The Post reported said the law is effective immediately.
Meanwhile, Betsy McCaughey, a former New York lieutenant governor, thinks Cuomo would make a bad attorney general.
She pointed out in a New York Post opinion piece that several of his cronies have been convicted of crimes, and he recently was accused of sexual misconduct.
But worse, said McCaughey, a Democrat-turned-Republican who was an adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, was Cuomo’s response to COVID-19.
“The carnage started in March, when hospitals inundated with COVID-19 patients insisted on clearing out elderly patients, even if they were still infected, and sending them to whatever nursing homes had empty beds,” she said. “To swing that, they had to get rid of a safety regulation requiring that patients test negative twice for COVID-19 before being placed in a home. Cuomo’s state Health Department willingly complied.”
On March 25, McCaughey said, the Cuomo administration “mandated that nursing homes accept COVID patients being discharged from hospitals and barred any testing.”
“Facilities had to fly blind, not knowing who was infected. The infection spread like fire, killing thousands. Yet the Cuomo administration stuck with its deadly policy until May 10, way too long. The impression of impropriety is unavoidable.”
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