Proposed legislation that criminalizes disrupting a public meeting is an affront to freedom of speech.
Under SB173 (Disrupting Legislative or Official Meetings), which is sponsored by Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, it would be against the law for those who intentionally cause a “minor” disruption at an official meeting — defined in the bill as “a single, loud outburst, absent other disruptive conduct, that does not exceed five seconds in length.” More serious disruptions or multiple offenses would be upgraded to the level of a class C or class B misdemeanor.
I’m all for civility and working together in a productive manner to solve problems, but this feels like a cynical attempt by the Legislature to quash dissenting viewpoints. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.” We are stronger as a society engaged citizens speak out regarding situations they feel are unjust, and the Legislature would do well to remember this.
Salt Lake City