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The case of San Francisco Public Library & NAMBLA
From the NAMBLA Website: NAMBLA's membership is open to everyone sympathetic to personal freedom. Our goal is to end the oppression of men and boys who have freely chosen, mutually consensual relationships.
The facts • NAMBLA (local chapter of North American Man-Boy Love Association) allowed to meet monthly for over two years in Potrero Hill branch of SFPL • Reporter from KRON attends NAMBLA meeting undercover with hidden camera in 1992 • KRON runs story on multiple nights – Interviews with criminologists, psychologists, concerned parents – Profiles of NAMBLA members who had been arrested for molesting children
The KRON story “The Portrero Hill branch of the San Francisco Public Library on a Saturday afternoon: downstairs, children -- some with parents, some by themselves. And upstairs … the regular monthly meeting of NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association. This is not a counseling session, not an attempt to help NAMBLA members control their lust for children. Quite the opposite. On this day the group discussed putting together a calendar of nude boys as a fundraiser. ” http: //www. qrd. org/qrd/orgs/NAMBLA/nambla-KRON. transcript
The KRON story San Francisco police sergeant Tom Eisenman: He asked us to hide his face so he won't be recognized by the child molesters he investigates. "I don't believe they're harmless at all. I believe that, because of their meetings, children get molested. And, as long as that happens, it's a subject of attention for the San Francisco Police Department. "
The KRON story “One of the questions is, isn't it conspiracy for people to get together to talk about an illegal act? Apparently not, according to San Francisco police. If they merely talk about the illegal act, no crime as occurred. It's not until the act was committed that conspiracy occurs. ” Greg Lyon, KRON reporter
The KRON story “The library says that, legally, its hands are tied. It's an issue of intellectual freedom protected by court ruling. Assistant chief of branches Gloria Hansen: ‘No, as long as it's lawful, they fill out the form with the contact people, and it's a First Amendment issue. Anybody who wants to meet in the meeting room, as long as it's lawful activity. ’”
The KRON story "The notion of the government coming in and telling people what they can or cannot talk about, and telling people with some views, no matter how important those views are, that they can't hold those views in a public place is something that we think is really the wrong policy, and it violates the First Amendment. Dorothy Erlich of the American Civil Liberties Union:
The reaction Potrero Parents Plan Protest at Library San Francisco Chronicle Jan. 15, 1992, p. A 16 Outrage at Potrero Library San Francisco Chronicle Jan. 16, 1992, p. A 16 New Library Policy Wouldn't Exclude Man -Boy Group San Francisco Chronicle Jan. 22, 1992, p. D 6
Consequences? A civilian criticizes the policies of the U. S. president
First Amendment Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.
Sedition Act of 1798 “If any person shall write, print, utter or publish … any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; … then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years. ”
Espionage Act of 1917 – as amended in 1918 Illegal to: “willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies. . . ” or to “cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or. . . willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, to the injury of the service or of the United States. . ” (40 Stat. 217, 219)
Justice Holmes “the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done” “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. ” Test: “…whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. ” SCHENCK v. UNITED STATES; BAER v. UNITED STATES 249 U. S. 47 (1919)
Justice Brandeis “Those who won our independence by revolution … did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. . ” WHITNEY v. CALIFORNIA 274 U. S. 357 (1927)
Consequences? A civilian criticizes the policies of the U. S. president A fellow grocer publishes a false claim that Ralph of Ralph’s Pretty Good Groceries is selling outdated food and defrauding
Libel • A defamatory statement expressed in a fixed medium, esp. writing but also a picture, sign, or electronic broadcast. ● Libel is classified as both a crime and a tort but is no longer prosecuted as a crime. Black’s Law Dictionary, 7 th ed.
Consequences? A civilian criticizes the policies of the U. S. president A fellow grocer publishes a false claim that Ralph of Ralph’s Pretty Good Groceries is selling outdated food and defrauding A group of disgruntled citizens talk about assassinating the U. S. president
Consequences “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. - where are you now that we need you? ” Columnist Charlie Brooker in the Guardian Pool their money, in the Yellow Pages find “Hit Men ‘R Us, ” sign a contract, pay the firm (actually a front for FBI)
What do you think? • What are the issues? • Should a public library allow NAMBLA to utilize its meeting rooms? – On what basis do you make your decision? – If so, would you place any restrictions on that or other groups who wish to use the library meeting rooms?
The result Screening Library Meetings San Francisco Chronicle Feb. 3, 1992, p. A 20 “A SENSIBLE ANSWER is at hand over what to do following the discovery that an organization known as the North American Man-Boy Love Association had been meeting at a neighborhood library. … The solution advocated by Library Commissioner Dale Carlson is simple and effective: The time and sponsors of meetings of all groups using library facilities must be publicly posted for 72 hours in advance, and in accordance with existing library regulations, all such meetings must be open to the public. ”
The result Library Journal March 15, 1992, p. 16 “Among the revisions is a new mandate to post a listing of all groups meeting at all library locations 72 hours in advance of each meeting. Posted alongside these listings will be the application form [sic] of the groups holding meetings, with their missions and full association name now clearly spelled out. ”
The result School Library Journal March 1992, p. 138 “SFPL asked [NAMBLA] to renew [their application], with up-to-date addresses and telephone numbers, if they wished to continue meeting at the library. NAMBLA has not done so, and [SFPL Community Relations Librarian] Schneider told SLJ that a spokesperson for the group called her from Boston to say they no longer intended to meet at the library.