Do politicians have a first amendment right to lie to you?

Do politicians have a first amendment right to lie during the campaign? Probably so, a federal court suggests in a new ruling.

North Carolina’s ban on political campaign dishonesty is “manifestly unconstitutional,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said.

The judgment of the appellate court is not final. Instead, the court held that the lower court erred in not temporarily staying the enforcement action against the attorney general because his challenge to the law had ended. But in doing so, the Court of Appeal judges also held that the Attorney General’s objection was probably correct on the merits of the case and that it was hard to imagine him losing.

The case stems from the attempted prosecution of Josh Stein, North Carolina’s Democratic attorney general (and, now, gubernatorial candidate). Stein was up for re-election in 2020, running against Republican Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill. One of Stein’s campaign ads said “O’Neill left 1,500 rape kits on the shelf.”

O’Neill argued that this criticism is incorrect because police – not prosecutors – are charged with prosecuting rape paraphernalia.

He filed a complaint with the North Carolina Board of Elections, accusing Stein of violating a 1931 North Carolina law that criminalizes “defamatory” campaign ads that candidates know to be “false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity, when such report is calculated or intended to affect such candidate’s chances for appointment or election.”

The committee did not recommend filing criminal charges. Even so, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman planned to present charges to a state grand jury last summer.

Going on the offensive, Stein stopped the prosecution with a lawsuit. The district court refused to issue a temporary injunction against the law.

Now, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has handed Stein a preliminary victory, overturning the district court’s denial of the injunction and declaring the law under which he was to be charged “probably unconstitutional for two reasons.”

Firstrank It appears to criminalize at least some true statements—a result of the First Amendment forbids,” wrote Judge Toby J. Heytens, noting that the court could not find “any source suggesting that ‘derogatory’ refers exclusively to factually false statements.” Because of this, the law could have “chilling effects on truthful speech during political campaigns.”

Othereven if the Act only reaches false statements, it makes it inadmissible content-based differences in the selection of speech to be banned,” Heytens wrote.

The law, for example, does not prohibit “inflating a candidate’s credentials or promoting self-aggrandizing falsehoods, nor does it address the knowledge of falsehoods that undermine the perception of electoral integrity without mentioning a particular candidate.” and “under this statute, speakers can lie about business people, celebrities, purely private citizens or even government officials as long as the victim is not currently ‘a candidate in any primaries or elections.’ It’s textbook content discrimination,” which the First Amendment prohibits.

The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order denying the temporary injunction and remanded the case to the district court “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”


Missouri’s version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law says only licensed mental health professionals can talk to students about sexual orientation or gender identity. The proposal, which received a hearing before the Missouri Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee earlier this week, “would prohibit teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation at any grade level, regardless of subject matter,” it reports The Kansas City Star:

It would restrict any public or charter school staff member from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation unless they are a mental health provider and have parental permission.

It would go further than Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law passed last year. In Florida, the law prohibits teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade, but Missouri does not specify a grade level.

Critics of the bill say it would prohibit LGBTQ teachers from discussing their spouses because it could indicate their sexual orientation. They say it could also ban the teaching of books if they include LGBTQ characters or themes and ban the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in health classes.

Missouri State Sen. Mike Moon, an Ash Grove Republican behind the bill, said the bill is intended to allow mental health professionals to counsel students instead of staff members who may not be properly trained.

Moon calls it “Act on Compassion and Protection of Vulnerable Children.” The full text of the bill (SB 134) can be found here. The statutory summary says it would prohibit “any school nurse, counselor, teacher, principal, or other staff member in a public or charter school from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with a student unless that person is a licensed mental health provider with prior parental permission.”


Would you have more children if it meant never paying taxes again? The New York Times‘ Jessica Grose looks at Hungary’s plan to exempt some mothers from income tax:

In December, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s political director chirped, “women who become mothers before the age of 30 will be exempt from income tax!” This is on top of a series of other initiatives aimed at increasing the number of babies in Hungary, including allowing mothers of four or more children to be permanently exempt from paying taxes, a mortgage repayment plan for families with two or more children, a subsidy program for larger families to buy seven-seater cars and enable grandparents that they are entitled to payment for the care of their grandchildren.

As Hungarian diplomat Andras Doncsev explained in a speech in November at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, as part of a conference on what he called “global birth strike,” The Hungarian government spends more than 5 percent of its gross domestic product on family support; it spends three times more on the family than on the military, he said.

Will it work? The history of pro-natal policies like these in other countries does not bode well for this to happen. Jennifer D. Sciubba, author 8 billion and counting: How sex, death and migration shape our world, points out that the fertility rate in Hungary has increased from 1.2 to 1.5, but this is still nowhere near the fertility level (which is 2.1). Hungary only “managed to raise its own super low fertility to only regular or low fertility.”

More from Grose:

When Sciubba and I spoke, she said that it almost seems like once a country falls below replacement level, no matter how many family-centered policies are enacted, there’s no going back. “I think we have a lot more to learn about it, but it’s fascinating,” she said. The reason is probably a complicated mix of social and cultural forces that are unique to individual countries. But essentially, it seems to me that no amount of additional financial support would make a person want to be a parent without an intrinsic desire for children that exceeds any realistic level of compensation. Some people just don’t want to be parents when they’re allowed to, and that’s not something that should or can be changed.


• A bipartisan group of senators has reintroduced legislation to revoke the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 1991 and 2002 that authorized the Gulf War and the Iraq War. “Congress has failed to repeal those AUMFs to prevent potential abuse by future presidents,” Sen. Rand Paul’s office said in an email. You can find the full bill here.

• Josh Barro reviews “Biden’s effective and Clintonian sowing of fear, uncertainty and doubt about Republican stewardship of popular benefits programs.”

• Texas is challenging a Biden administration rule requiring pharmacies to dispense abortion drugs to anyone with a valid prescription.

• At least nine states are trying to restrict or criminalize drag shows.

• Former employee of the Center for Transgender Persons of the Children’s Hospital St. Louis writes about the shaky standards of treatment she witnessed there.

• The Biden administration’s new Title IX rule becomes public in May, “although it’s unclear when it will go into effect,” he notes USA Today. Biden’s changes would add discrimination based on gender identity to the law’s scope, expand the definition of sexual harassment (requiring schools to investigate anything that meets this lower threshold), and require schools to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard instead of the stricter “clear evidence.” and convincing evidence” standard in sexual assault cases.

• An anonymous State Department official says the Chinese balloon shot down by the Pentagon last weekend had “multiple antennas” to gather intelligence and that they were not “consistent” with weather balloons. Since the balloon was shot down, numerous officials have made anonymous statements that it was a spy balloon. But an official statement about the balloon has not been released since it was shot down.

• San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen urges state lawmakers to decriminalize prostitution.

• The idea that Americans have only been gaining weight since the 1980s is wrong, suggests Matthew Yglesias.

• A few things most people get wrong about the brain.

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