We must tolerate street screechers who yell that we will each wind up somewhere unpleasant. Sidewalks are traditional free-speech forums, whether we agree or not. Personally, I am not planning to follow the street screechers’ travel suggestions.
Inside is a different matter. If you come into my house yelling about where I must wind up, I may put you out. Go, annoy someone else. The same is true in many places of public accommodation.
County Council Member Fred Lowry has beclowned himself with conspiracy theories. Though he did it in church, no one is likely to take him seriously for any purpose whatsoever.
In public, the other council members can do little. I guess they can sit conspicuously far from him in public, but the church was Lowry’s, not theirs.
Moreover, Pastor Lowry could object if they were to enter his church announcing that the governor praised recent elections as the cleanest in memory.
Lowry need not tolerate someone saying that no children were trafficked in the basement of Comet Pizza. I could quote Hebrews 13:2, or Matthew 25:38, and no doubt be shown the door right away.
That is his right. He manages the property. And not just physical property, either: If I posted such comments on his website, he would be free to delete them and ask that I quit posting. For that matter, I could post the same sort of thing and likely be banned from major websites like Parler in short order.
Except in Florida, things are now different. With the official signing of SB 7072, Pastor Lowry and Parler are now required to tolerate my rantings on their otherwise hugely successful websites. If they do not, I can sue them for $100,000 in statutory damages!
Naturally, such tolerance is limited. If you are a big contributor like Disney, your website is exempt from the new regulations. Funny how that works.
But for the rest of us, the Legislature wants to require websites to host unwanted speech.
Under the Constitution, they cannot do it in my living room. They probably cannot do it on the web, either.
Still, it is not as though the Legislature looks much past their coin operators. Same for the governor, who signed the bill, which is why I can guess what they are thinking — if the statute were not blatantly unconstitutional, Fred Lowry would have to listen to all this!
— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.