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Supreme Court: torturing animals on video protected by 1st Amendment; maybe Obama will pick a vegan

April 20, 2010 |  9:17 am

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick talks about ending the dog fighting for which he served time in federal prison Sept. 29, 2009 by Reuters Pictures
Not bad enough that they forced property owners to sell out in the interests of economic development or intervened in Bush vs. Gore to stop the 2000 recount that might have found that Al Gore actually won.

Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution protects animal abusers who torture dogs and record their violence for sale as videos because a law Congress passed in 1999 against animal cruelty was written too vaguely, and could have been used to outlaw hunting videos. In an 8-1 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:

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. The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.

And the lone hold-out? Might surprise you. It was Samuel Alito, one of the arch conservatives on the court. Rebutting the majority's view that the law was too broad, Alito argued it could still be used to stop crush videos, which apparently appeal to some people's sexual fetish by showing women in stiletto heels crushing animals to death.

"The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it most certainly does not protect violent criminal conduct, even if engaged in for expressive purposes," he wrote.

Question to legal experts: does this mean the court would find constitutionally permissible a crush video depicting people being tortured to death on video on grounds the law was written too vaguely?

Now that President Obama has a new Supreme Court nomination to make, maybe he can consider naming someone with more sensitivity to the souls of animals. First Dog Bo would probably wag his tail at that.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick talks about the dog fighting that led to his conviction and prison time for animal cruelty in a church appearance Sept. 29. Credit: Reuters

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