BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION WOULD REMOVE ROADBLOCK TO FREE SPEECH
November 10, 2011
State Reps. Tom McMillin and Jeff Irwin today introduced bipartisan legislation to repeal a form of judicial bond that infringes on freedom of speech.
HB 5179 would repeal the state law that allows a judge to impose a peace bond on someone to prevent them from exercising their rights of free speech and assembly.
"A peace bond is a flawed judicial tool that can arbitrarily be used to violate freedom of speech, and it has no place in Michigan law," said McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, the bill's sponsor. "The freedom to voice your opinion is one of our most valuable rights, and no judge should have the ability to forcefully stifle that voice with a peace bond."
Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, key co-sponsor of the measure, said: "Free speech is a core American value that transcends partisanship. Protecting free speech, even protecting unpopular speech, is necessary for a free and functioning democracy."
The legislation received support from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Thomas More Law Center.
"In a free society, no one should be thrown in jail for their speech, even if that speech is offensive," said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan legal director. "The government cannot put a price on free speech to silence demonstrators in anticipation that their message will not be welcome. By allowing the government to use a peace bond as tool to censor speech, we are ensuring that the majority can always prevent the expression of unpopular ideas.
"The ACLU is pleased to see Reps. McMillin and Irwin put forward this legislation to end the limits on free speech imposed through peace bonds," Steinberg said.
Robert J. Muise, senior trial counsel for the Thomas More Law Center said: "The case against Pastor Jones and Mr. Wayne Sapp is, quite simply, a gross miscarriage of justice that was made possible by an archaic and unconstitutional law. We are pleased to see that Representative McMillin and Representative Irwin are working toward removing this unconstitutional restriction from the books. This action is long overdue."
McMillin said the law is outdated and needs to be changed.
"This is part of a public act that was enacted 84 years ago," McMillin said. "Times have changed and now is the time to remove this antiquated law from Michigan's books."