10 Updates

Federal Regulators Shove First Amendment Down Slippery Slope With School Ad Ban Proposal

May 6 2014, 12:13pm CDT | by

Think of the children ! That phrase is a “tried-and-true debate stopper,” ethicist Jack Marshall writes , “because of its ability to inhibit rational thought.” It’s no wonder, then, that...

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11 weeks ago

Federal Regulators Shove First Amendment Down Slippery Slope With School Ad Ban Proposal

May 6 2014, 12:13pm CDT | by

Think of the children !

That phrase is a “tried-and-true debate stopper,” ethicist Jack Marshall writes , “because of its ability to inhibit rational thought.” It’s no wonder, then, that professional activists and government regulators often cloak actions which might otherwise be highly questionable (and unconstitutional) in the appealing mantle of safeguarding America’s youth.

For instance, government routinely invokes protection of children as a justification for restricting commercial speech. Three years ago, a triumvirate of federal agencies tried to limit kids’ exposure to food and beverage ads through an informal guidance document . Thankfully, that effort fell flat. But Washington’s appetite for limiting “disfavored” speech—in the interest of those ubiquitous children—is never sated, as a recently proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation reminds us.

The February 26 proposal dictates how local education agencies (i.e. school boards) are to devise “local school wellness policies.” The USDA Secretary, joined by First Lady Michelle Obama , announced the rule at a White House event and proudly touted the proposal’s unprecedented prohibition of advertising for selected foods and beverages on school property. That part of the proposal violates the First Amendment, a conclusion which WLF shared with USDA last week in its formal comments to the agency.

USDA asserts that its actions are necessary to improve child nutrition. The proposal advances that interest in several ways that are not constitutionally suspect. It requires that school boards end the sale of “competitive foods” (i.e. products that are not covered by subsidized school lunch programs) which fail to meet federal “Smart Snacks” guidelines (these flowcharts show what is “Smart”). The proposal also stresses the importance of “nutrition promotion” and encourages both private advertising for “Smart Snacks” and school education efforts such as integrating nutritional messages into classes (mandatory reading of “Ten Apples Up On Top ” in math, perhaps) and posting of inspirational signage in dining areas (maybe “ Kale is for Kids!” or “Chia Pet Says: ‘Eat Chia Seeds!’”).

But these measures weren’t enough for USDA. The proposal also prohibits marketing of products that don’t measure up to Smart Snacks standards. USDA Secretary Vilsack justified the ban by remarking, “If you can’t sell it, you ought not to be able to market it.” That makes for a nice sound bite, but it’s not a winning constitutional argument. Non-Smart Snacks are not akin to tobacco or alcohol, which minors cannot purchase. Kids can lawfully buy these foods and beverages and bring them to school. So USDA cannot possibly argue that it is banning speech proposing an unlawful transaction, speech which the First Amendment does not protect. The proposal does, however, favor some speech over other speech based on the content of the advertisement. The First Amendment prohibits such discrimination, even for commercial speech. Also, the Supreme Court permits government to limit commercial speech only as a measure of last, not first, resort. USDA, in other words, must determine if its conduct ban (no sales of non-Smart Snacks) meets its nutrition promotion goal first, before it targets speech about “unhealthy” foods.

Why is the federal government risking a constitutional challenge if it’s already pursuing other measures like an in-school ban on disfavored foods and beverages? Perhaps the Obama Administration couldn’t resist another opportunity to establish an anti-commercial speech precedent while also pleasing its brethren in the public health community. The USDA proposal’s section on advertising reads as if it were ghostwritten by professional food activists. It cites “studies” done by such ad-ban proponents as ChangeLab Solutions , Public Citizen , and California Project LEAN . It seems to embrace everything advocated in this Center for Science in the Public Interest document . These organizations’ agendas are not limited to eliminating advertising from public schools. Successful implementation of the USDA proposal will lead to more ambitious speech ban campaigns, ones which an emboldened federal bureaucracy may openly advance.

An uncomplicated, but rather disconcerting, attitude underlies USDA’s proposal and public health activists’ support for it: We know better than you do. The federal government’s broader goal here is stated very plainly in the USDA proposal itself—”enhance and encourage participation in school meal programs.” Why? Because (seven-year-old) research indicates that “school meals are more healthful than what students eat as alternatives to school meals.” The justification for selectively banning food and beverage ads in school essentially boils down to “the ads will inspire unhealthy choices.” For the majority of children who might view “unhealthy” food ads, it’s their parents, not the kids, who do the food shopping. And for the older kids who might be able to make those purchases on their own, the Supreme Court has said very clearly,”the fear that people would make bad decisions if given truthful information cannot justify content-based burdens” on speech.

So when government takes action to influence the American diet, it can, of course, think about the children. But it must also remember the quintessentially American principles of personal responsibility and freedom of speech. We want our children to learn about those too.

 
Update
10

7 weeks ago

RM47mil KWSG contributions still unclaimed

Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat was told ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
9

7 weeks ago

Gold shop lost almost RM1mil

Jun 9 2014 3:50am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KANGAR: A gold shop owner lost almost RM1 million after after the safe on in his shop was broken into ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
8

7 weeks ago

Motion to debate MAS losses in Dewan Rakyat rejected

Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected by the Dewan ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
7

7 weeks ago

MH370 Tragedy: Hisham: RM27.6 mil spent on 1st phase of SAR

Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Mini ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

7 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in the southern states las ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

7 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over R ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

7 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Must ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

7 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involving an allocation of R ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Bazaar Scheme 201 ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billio ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

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