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Sunday 13 April 2003

Wackiness In Federal Court

An AP story in the Washington Post:

The federal government argues that the First Amendment does not protect speech advocating illegal conduct.

The argument is over a book, written by Irwin Schiff, which argues that Americans are not legally obliged to pay income tax. Not that the income tax is an abomination, or contrary to the principles on which the United States was founded, or any of that. He argues that under the law as it currently stands, there is no legal obligation to pay income tax.

He’s wrong, of course; regardless of whether there’s a specific statute saying in so many words that you’ve got to pay income tax (his argument appears to be based on there not being one), federal law clearly sets forth the amounts that people in the U.S. are expected to pay in income taxes, and the penalties that they face if they don’t. The guy is a harmless nut. But when I last checked, it’s not illegal to be wrong or a harmless nut in the United States.

What’s so bewildering is that the government is apparently trying to shut him up on the ground that he’s advocating illegal activity. It’s not as if there could be a real debate over whether the First Amenement applies in this case; people can be arrested if they don’t pay the tax, but advocating nonviolent civil disobedience is clearly protected political speech. (Schiff doesn’t see what he’s doing as advocating civil disobedience, since he believes that the law does not require payment of the tax; neverless, civil disobedience is what it is.)

I’m not too worried that ‘dissent’ will be ‘stifled’ by the government’s actions. I have enough faith in the system to believe in the certainty of this idotic case beign thrown out or overturned at some point on the grounds that it’s absurdly unconstitutional. What I resent is the money — my money, in part — that the government is spending on prosecuting this dog.

Posted by tino at 12:48 13.04.03
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Cool! so all Congress has to do is pass laws outlawing all speach they don’t agree with and the 1st Amendment doesn’t apply.

Posted by: Paul Johnson at April 17, 2003 10:07 AM