Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beyond Belief News- Tennessee Law Prohibits Offensive Pictures.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed an amendment to an existing law last week so that internet images that cause anyone emotional distress would be a thing of the past.

Let's think about that for a second.

If the court judges that you had no legitimate purpose in posting these "offensive" pics, then you can spend up to a year in jail.

Who are the people who are protected against being offended? 


This doesn't have to be the person depicted in the image.

It doesn't even have to refer to the person who claims offense.

It just has to be someone who sees it, and doesn't like it. 

This includes pictures of Muhammad, religious jokes, honest pictoral critique of a religious practice, or even a political cartoon speaking about religion. 

So funny it is illegal in 3 states!

Don't think that your twitter account or facebook accounts are safe either. 

This new law applies to anywhere on the internet that you post pictures.

The language of the law certainly doesn't refer to religion, but it has all the beginnings of a blasphemy law.

Do we really want this sort of stifling of expression in North America?

Let's be clear.

No one has the right to not be offended.

I am offended by a lot of things:
Young men wearing their pants around their thighs;
Swearing around other peoples children;
Spitting in public; and
Being stared at for no reason (don't ask).

But should these things be outlawed merely because they offend me? 


Ok, maybe just this one.

As much as I hate these things, I would never suggest that they should.
Personal offense is related to personal values and priorities, how can I vet my behavior based on another persons values?

If I don't like something, it is my decision to speak up and ask for the person to stop or to just walk away.

It is far too onerous to let your actions be guided by what may or may not offend someone else's sensibilities.  What about MY sensibilities? 

Why are my opinions so much less important than everyone else's? 

What a law like this amounts to, is protecting peoples beliefs from unwanted critique or insult.

Are we seriously making criticizing or even insulting people illegal?

I hope not.  Do we really want to give people's beliefs a protected status beyond the power of public critique or questioning?  What a slippery slope that will become.

I am severely offended by this new law and what it will do to the face of free speech and open dialogue.  Does this mean that it is the first law in history to actually violate itself?

In the immortal words of Red Foxx;

"If I have offended anyone here tonight, I want you to know, that sincerely from the bottom of my heart, I really don't give a shit."

Couldn't have said it better myself.


  1. First, I don't see this standing up in the courts. I have seen a little about this but am wondering what the reactions would be if an atheist or other non-christian said that pictures of the torture of Jesus was offensive. I have a feeling that this law will turn into a monster and those that voted for it will end up regretting it.

  2. In 1952, the Supreme Court decided Burstyn v. Wilson, a case involving a New York law that banned or censored sacrilegious movies. The Court said that "In seeking to apply the broad and all-inclusive definition of 'sacrilegious' given by the New York courts, the censor is set adrift upon a boundless sea amid a myriad of conflicting currents of religious views, with no charts but those provided by the most vocal and powerful orthodoxies. New York cannot vest such unlimited restraining control over motion pictures in a censor." The Court went on to strike down the law as unconstitutional via the First Amendment. Stare decisis is a bitch.

  3. I live in Tennessee and have already petitioned the ACLU of Tennessee to represent me in overturning this crap - here is my column on the subject on the Examiner

    Brad Feaker

  4. I need to post a picture of the law itself, printed out, and bring to the court's attention that that picture offends me. Recursive offense FTW.

  5. unconstitutional. freedom of speech.

  6. Wow America is going down the tubes!

  7. Thanks for spreading the word about this. I live in Mississippi and if this state can find some way to out-crazy Tennessee, it will. This kind of insanity needs to be nipped in the bud immediately.

  8. After visiting family in SC& GA recently I'm now back in Australia, I was shocked at the antics of the southern Baptists and southern politicians in general the way they disregard the Constitution.
    How they pander to religious extremists pushing ridiculous Christian dogma into state schools and passing downright crazy laws such as this one.

  9. You can see my response to this new law as a Tennessee artist on my artist's blog at with my portrait of our Governor Bill Haslam and his ravishing wife.