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A rare case of good bipartisanship

Posted by Richard on July 20, 2010

As a general principle, I assume that when the Stupid Party and the Evil Party embrace bipartisanship and work together on a bill, the result will be both stupid and evil. That's a useful, but over-broad generalization, and S.3518 is the exception that proves the rule. Jacob Sullum explained:

The SPEECH Act has all the earmarks of bad legislation, starting with the strained acronym in its name (which stands for "Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage"). Its chief sponsors in the Senate include Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Worst of all, it passed the Senate unanimously yesterday and is expected to win easy House approval within a few days. Has anything good ever emerged from such circumstances?

Well, now something has. The SPEECH Act, aimed at discouraging "libel tourism," would let Americans block enforcement of foreign defamation judgments on First Amendment grounds. The law was championed by Israeli-American criminologist Rachel Ehrenfeld, who faced a British lawsuit by Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz over her 2003 book Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop It. …

The First Amendment Center has more about the Ehrenfeld case and New York's 2008 passage of the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, a.k.a. "Rachel's Law." It provided protection for journalists and authors at the state level similar to what will be afforded by the SPEECH Act. Within a year, Florida and Illinois had also adopted Rachel's Law, and it was introduced in several other states and the US Congress.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is president of the American Center for Democracy and on the advisory board of Brigitte Gabriel's American Congress for Truth. ACT's activist sister organization, Act! for America, has been instrumental in this fight, and has lots of information about it.

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