In Defense of Free Speech: The 2010 Jefferson Muzzle Awards


Every year the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, Va., awards "Jefferson Muzzles" to organizations that stifle free speech. This year's first place award goes to the attempt at stifling speech by Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL). As the Center explains:

In late 2009 a group of Orlando-area Republican activists led by Angie Langley launched a website targeting U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL). The site, titled "" is a parody of Grayson's official website "congressmanwithguts." 

The spoof website lambasts Rep. Grayson and raises funds with the aim of unseating the Congressman next election.On December 15, 2009, just a few months after the site's launch, Grayson wrote a four-page complaint to Attorney General Eric Holder alleging that Langley's operation of the website violates federal law because it fraudulently represents that Langley is a constituent of Grayson's district when in fact she resides in a neighboring congressional district. Additionally, Grayson argues that Langley submitted paperwork to the Federal Elections Commission falsely stating that the local committee managing the website (which accepts donations for Grayson's potential future opponents) supports or opposes more than one candidate. Grayson contends that this is fraudulent because the site is directed entirely towards him and does not mention any other candidates. "Therefore, Ms. Langley and the Committee should be fined, and Ms. Langley imprisoned for five years." …

Rep. Grayson's urging the U.S. Attorney General to seek a 5 year prison sentence against a vocal critic for minor transgressions, even if proven, clearly merits censure. The right to criticize public officials without fear of government reprisal is a fundamental component of the First Amendment. As such, elected officials should both expect and tolerate criticism.

Another Jefferson Muzzle was awarded to the Alabama Alcoholic Control Board "for preventing the sale of a wine in the State of Alabama because the labels on the wine bottles showed a 19th century depiction of a nude nymph." One other went to the Oklahoma Tax Commission that refused to issue a vanity license plate reading "IM GAY." The same commission permitted license plates reading "STR8FAN" and "STR8SEXI."

For the whole list of this year's winners go here.