LITTLE ROCK – The ACLU of Arkansas today responded to the temporary judicial restraining order against several television stations barring them from airing political advertisements against a state supreme court justice. The ads were aired by a Washington, D.C.-based group, the Judicial Crisis Network, which does not disclose the source of its funding.
ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar made this statement:
“Freedom of speech is a fundamental principle of our democracy, because if the government can censor one group from expressing its views, then everyone’s speech rights are at risk. This restraining order is clearly unconstitutional given that it involves the pre-emptive suppression of political speech on a matter of public concern – where the First Amendment’s protections are strongest.
“Judges should not be in the business of policing what can and cannot be said in a political campaign. Once we give the government the ability to decide what political speech is permissible, then dissent can be suppressed, protesters can be silenced – and all of our First Amendment rights are imperiled.
“The remedy for false speech is more speech – and in this case, sunshine. Speech that expressly attacks or supports the election of a candidate for judicial office can and should be subject to financial disclosure requirements that give the public timely and useful information about the sources of funds and an opportunity, prior to the election, to evaluate the possible influence of those funds.
“We are monitoring the case closely and evaluating our legal options. We urge all parties to respect the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, even speech that is false, controversial or offensive.”