Today the ACLU announced a victory in the fight against cruel conditions that factory farmed animals have to live with. For years in Iowa there was a law known as the Ag-Gag laws (“agriculture gag”) threatened to put people who would enter factory farming facilities under false pretexts for the purpose of recording the livestock for journalistic or activist reasons into jail for up to a year. The judge presiding over the case declared the law in violation of the First Amendment.
From the ACLU’s site:
One major area of constitutional concern is that ag-gag laws often make it a crime to be untruthful when gaining access to an industrial farm or similar place — for example, by not disclosing that you are an investigative journalist or activist when applying for a job.
Why is it a constitutional problem to outlaw lying? Because the First Amendment protects false speech where there is no legally recognizable harm. The Supreme Court has held that while certain limited categories of false speech, such as perjury, are inherently harmful and can be outlawed, the First Amendment does not permit outlawing all lies — even distasteful lies that have no social benefit.
When it comes to undercover investigations, however, lying is done in service of the public good — and not only in the agricultural industry. The enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, for example, has long relied on undercover audit testing of landlords and employers to ensure they do not treat housing or job applicants differently based on protected class status such as race, gender, or disability.
This is great news for my fellow animal lovers. We will keep you posted on all this.