By William R. Toler
I love North Carolina. It’s a beautiful state, from the miles of beaches on the Atlantic Coast to the hazy hills of the southern Appalachians. But sometimes the idoacy of the “powers that be” make me sad to be Tarheel born and bred.
After Steve Cooksey was hospitalized with diabetes in 2009, he decided to fight his ailment by changing his diet, the Carolina Journal reports. After experiencing positive results from the low-carb, high-protein regimen, Cooksey decided to start a blog.
Depsite having a disclaimer at the bottom of his blog stating, “I am not a doctor, dietitian nor nutritionist… in fact I have no medical training of any kind,” Cooksey received a letter from the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition.
Isn’t that nice? We have a Nanny State agency to “protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of North Carolina from harmful nutrition practice by providing for the licensure and regulation of persons engaged in the practice of dietetics/nutrition and by establishing educational standards for those persons.” How did we survive before 1992?
The board says the Cooksey is “practicing” nutrition by posting information about the diet and suggesting advice to others. Therefore, he needs a license. Otherwise he is violation of state law.
But that law seems to be in violation of the First Amendment.
The CJ reports:
Declan McCullagh, a CBSNews.com correspondent who writes about online free speech, says the board probably is violating Cooksey’s First Amendment rights.
“The First Amendment says state and federal governments ‘shall make no law’ abridging freedom of speech,” McCullagh said. “It doesn’t say ‘except for what annoys the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutrition.’”
McCullagh pointed to a sentence in Cooksey’s blog the board didn’t approve of: “I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can.”
“If that language appeared in a book or a magazine article, do you think the board would complain?” McCullagh asked. “How about if someone said that to a friend over dinner at a restaurant? Of course not. But because it’s on the Web, they seem to think that the First Amendment no longer applies.”
David Hudson of the First Amendment Center tells the Independent Register that this is a case of “prior restraint” and “government overreaching.”
I would go a step further and say that it also violates the North Carolina state constitution. Article 1 Section 14 states: “Freedom of speech and of the press are two of the great bulwarks of liberty and therefore shall never be restrained, but every person shall be held responsible for their abuse.”
The board would most likely argue that Cooksley is abusing his right. But the way I see it, “abuse” consists of slander and libel. Where is the abuse if you speak the truth?
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