Tennessee has been cracking down on all sorts of speech lately. In May, Tennessee passed a low banning its citizens from transmitting “distressing images” via email or social networks. Now, Tennessee has updated an existing law banning “obscene or patently offensive” bumper stickers and directed state police to begin strickly enforcing it.
Here’s the law as it was written before:
To avoid distracting other drivers and thereby reduce the likelihood of accidents arising from lack of attention or concentration, the display of obscene and patently offensive movies, bumper stickers, window signs or other markings on or in a motor vehicle that are visible to other drivers is prohibited and display of such materials shall subject the owner of the vehicle on which they are displayed, upon conviction, to a fine of not less than two dollars ($2.00) nor more than fifty dollars ($50.00).
The new law has been updated to make the fine a mandatory $50. It now includes window signs, other markings on the vehicle, as well as video screen inside the car that are visible from the outside.
Drivers question if the law violates their rights to free speech.
"What is obscene to one person may not be to another," driver Karen Smith said. "They are constantly arguing about what is obscene what that definition is."
Another driver who wished to not be identified told Nashville’s News 2 he believes the law is odd, but thinks it could help protect children from inappropriate images.
"If someone has a bumper sticker with nude photos on it that’s a different story," he said. "I’m not going to worry about it. I am not going to put any obscene bumper stickers on my car."
In his opinion, Rep. Moore said the law does not violate any constitutional protections, including freedom of speech.
"When you get into crossing the line so to speak you do not have a right to impose your speech on other people," he said.
Democratic State Representative Gary Moore is the one referenced above. He sponsored the bill. So, what is Rep. Moore saying? You have the right to free speech, but not to speak aloud?
What constitutes an offensive bumper sticker? Would this count?
In 2010, under the old law TN police pulled over a woman for displaying a bumper sticker that said “Bitch on board.” Dickson Police chief gave a frighting answer about how subjective the law is:
It’s sort of what the judge said about the pornography, ‘I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it. What’s patently offensive to you, may not be the same to me.