Because Free Speech Isn't Free


A local paper reports from a chronically underused "free speech zone" sectioned off in Bartow, Florida, where "nobody seems to have anything to say":

Commissioners approved a six-page policy detailing a rigorous selection process for groups that want to use the space.

Among other things, the county requires each group to have a $500,000 insurance policy to cover liability…

Some groups may have also been put off by another clause in the county's policy requiring that the content of each display undergo review by county officials. Displays cannot include any profanity or pornography, commercial speech or lights or sound effects, the policy says.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: The Stepford Whores

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  1. This falls under the “public forum” line of cases. The insurance policy is probably ok from a constitutional standpoint, as is the ban on light and sound effects. As to profanity, etc. those are areas which can be challenged.

  2. Basically, when the government creates a public forum like this, any regulation must be content neutral. Attacking profanity, porn, and commercial speech seems to me edging into a regulation of content.

  3. Ironic, isn’t it, that there are very likely drugs in “drug-free” zones, but zero free speech in sanctioned free speech zones?

    (Ruthless is an flaming anarchist.)

  4. The whole concept of a free speech zone misses the point of free speesch. Doubly so, when you need to be authorized to use it.

  5. Freedom isn’t free, it costs a buck o’five

  6. Higher issues aside, on a practical level this sounds like mission accomplished.

  7. From the article:

    The church’s actions last year sparked a series of farcical imitations, including a tribute to the made-up holiday Festivus from the “Seinfeld” TV series.

    Are there any holidays that aren’t “made-up”?

  8. I thought that the entire US is a free speech zone.

  9. Thoreau,

    Apparently not when local politicians decide otherwise.

  10. On the other hand, people who’ve made use of Bartow, Florida’s new “spontaneity zone” unanimously agree that it was well worth the 4-6 week waiting period . . .

  11. Far easier would have been to say: quit putting stuff on our lawn.

    According to the article, the original display was placed “without permission.” This implies, to me, that the county already had the authority to remove the display, or order its removal, and penalize the displayers.

    If I’m reading this rightly, instead of just enforcing that original rule, they allowed the display, along with a host of others. THEN they created a whole new regime of permission requirements, in what I can only presume is an effort to…. prohibit displays?

    That were already prohibited?


  12. Ahh yes, urban planning at work. ­čÖé

  13. The whole “time, place, and manner” line of First Amendment cases gave me a headache in law school. There’s a certain reasonableness to the idea, but then you think about how the various levels of government actually apply time, place, and manner restrictions, and things get disturbing. I’m certainly okay with limiting actual nusiances–freedom of speech shouldn’t mean freedom to play Under Pressure continuously at 200 decibels in the street in front of my house–but separating out “nuisance” from “but that offends me” is the $20,000 question.

    I’m tempted to drive over to Bartow and give them a piece of my mind. Heck, maybe I should write an article about why Central Florida is a hotbed of Constitutional law issues (e.g., Tampa’s nude dancers and the six-foot rule, Ybor City’s face-recognition cameras, the loud ampitheatre run by Clear Channel, the Voyeur Dorm, the cops cracking down (ineffectively) on the beads-for-breasts marketplace of ideas, and this business in Bartow–just a taste of the wackiness found in this part of the state).

  14. Stuff like this is why gave Florida its own tag.

  15. wow $500,150 for free speech only under their guidelines? Is that all? I guess that the cheap rate!In this country aren’t we pretty free to do what we want with in reason? My theory everyone will get offended by someone else but along with freedom of speech comes freedom of listening or looking (in this case) so what is the problem? Oh yeah paying 500,150 for something that we pay for everyday in taxes as well as every military personal that fights for us! Now it all makes sense???

  16. All the wierdness just slides down and ends up in Florida.

  17. This gives a new meaning to “Tragedy of the Commons”, eh?

  18. We were okay in Florida until the rest of the country decided to move here. Good thing I’m a libertarian; otherwise, I’d want everyone who wasn’t here in 1980 to be asked to friggin’ leave. Grrrr.

  19. Guess this is as good a place for this as I’m gonna git:

    Well I’m movin’ down to Florida.
    And I’m gonna bowl me a perfect game.
    Well I’m gonna cut off my leg down in Florida.
    And I’m gonna dance one-legged in the rain.

    — Butthole Surfers, Movin’ to Florida

  20. What thoreau said, which was:

    I thought that the entire US is a free speech zone.

    This thing reminds me of the Bush campaign obscenely setting up “free speech zones” at rallies to quadrant off dissent. How un-American is that? Bush is a big spending liberal intoxicated with government power.

  21. On topic, worm, only if you agree to potty train the Chairman Maaaooo

  22. I wonder if they’d approve reading the Declaration of Independence?

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