Today’s entry: Your effort to fight for freedom of expression this week has been admirable. I wanted to get your thoughts on any concerns you might have with local governments. The New York Post report about Donald Trump Jr. looking to relocate to Florida, not just for tax purposes, but because he’s not welcome in New York got me to thinking. The report suggested Jr. Is specifically looking to move to a location with “like-minded” people. The report said he was looking to Jupiter rather than Palm Beach to be in a more politically friendly neighborhood. My question is if conservatives in South Florida should be thinking this way too? Could we become victims of the cancel culture in our own communities?
Bottom Line: There’s a lot to digest with what you’ve asked. I’ll start by addressing the New York Post report regarding Donald Trump Jr. It’s worth mentioning that the article was based on a single alleged source, rather than coming directly from the President’s son himself. Additionally, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Trump Jr.’s longtime girlfriend was spotted property shopping on Palm Beach this week which might dent the credibility of the source’s claim of wanting to relocate to Jupiter specifically for local political purposes. First, let's establish what governments can legally do to limit expression.
These are exceptions to free speech: Defamation, threats, incitement, obscenity, child pornography, advertising. The most surprising of the group for many is probably obscenity. Obscene language isn’t protected speech. So, for example, if a local government wanted to pass ordinances prohibiting profanity, they could. In Florida, the state has the following restrictions under its disorderly conduct statutes: breach of the peace; disorderly conduct. Basically, what that means is it’s a judgment call by law enforcement as to whether speech has been used to “corrupt public morals, outrage public decency or disturb the peace” and subsequently a judge if a prosecution were sought on related charges.
This is similar to what we’re governed by in the broadcast industry. The FCC standard is called “community standards”. Basically, anything can be said unless it’s perceived to be a violation of perceived moral standards within the broadcast area. Standards in South Florida could be considered to be different than say those in Seattle, again back to a judgment call.
So, to directly answer your question, a local government could choose to explicitly tighten standards in any five of the six non-protected categories of speech. That means they could decide to more stringently define what constitutes defamation, or a threat or incitement, or obscenity or what’s acceptable with advertising within their communities. If you want a view of the possible in South Florida, identify the strictest HOA you’re aware of and see what their related bylaws are and that takes me to the answer to your question. I don’t currently have concerns with any South Florida governments engaging in abusive restrictions of speech. HOA’s on the other hand, that’s where I’d be aware of what’s possible. In Florida, they’re able to operate as quasi-governments and lord knows there are numerous associations that are already restrictive in ways I feel are abusive.
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