[Ed. Note: Freedom of speech includes animal rights activists being free to speak freely about animal abuse. And, animal rights attorneys can now use both dog-fighting and crush videos to prosecute people on established animal cruelty charges. And we need to be aware of the media coverage of this "decision" that will educate people about the depths and depravities of animal abuse. Also read Clarifying the Supreme Court's United States v. Stevens Opinion.]
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that even videos that depict wanton animal cruelty deserve free-speech protections under the First Amendment.
In an 8-1 decision that united the court's liberal and conservative wings, the justices struck down a law that was enacted in response to so-called crush videos, supposedly designed to satisfy bizarre sexual cravings. The court said the law, however well-intentioned, went too far.
"Maybe there are some categories of speech that have been historically unprotected," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, "but if so, there is no evidence that depictions of animal cruelty is among them."
The ruling means that animal cruelty won't be added to obscenity, fraud and the handful of other categories of constitutionally unprotected speech.
"The majority opinion shows that the current court, although frequently described as politically conservative, continues to take free-speech protections seriously," said lawyer Andy Tauber, who filed an amicus brief in the case.
Roberts, quoting in part from a congressional report, explained that crush videos often show women "slowly crushing animals to death 'with their bare feet or while wearing high-heeled shoes,' sometimes while 'talking to the animals in a kind of dominatrix patter' over 'the cries and squeals of the animals.' "
Solicitor General Elena Kagan had asked the justices to balance the value of the speech against its societal cost. But Roberts rejected that notion as "startling and dangerous."
"The First Amendment's guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits," he wrote.
Justice Samuel Alito was the sole dissenter.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the U.S., said Congress should pass a narrower law quickly "to make sure the First Amendment is not used as a shield for those committing barbaric acts of cruelty and then peddling their videos on the Internet."