The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

In Defense of Humor: Alliance Defending Freedom Advocates for The Babylon Bee Against New York Censorship 


Content provided by legal writers

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of The Babylon Bee, a Christian satire news site that operates under the tagline, “The definitive source of fake news you can trust.” The brief asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to affirm a previous lower court ruling that stopped a New York law, which was compelling online entities, including The Bee, to monitor and take action against what the state classified as “hateful conduct.” 

The brief was filed in support of another Alliance Defending Freedom case, Volokh v. James, in which UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, who operates the blog “The Volokh Conspiracy,” and online platforms Rumble and Locals are challenging the constitutionality of a 2022 law passed by New York state, which also affects The Babylon Bee. The law in question covers a wide range of content, including satire, humor, and various viewpoints on societal issues such as gender identity and public health policy. 

The legislation mandates that social media platforms establish a reporting mechanism for users to flag violations of content moderation rules defined by the state. These guidelines use ambiguous and broadly interpreted terms like “hateful conduct.” Additionally, these platforms are required to publicly support and display New York’s definition of “hateful conduct” on their websites and apps, even if they hold differing views on this definition. Platforms that permit comments, such as The Volokh Conspiracy and the Bee, would effectively be utilized as tools to enforce the state’s censorship program. 

Alliance Defending Freedom’s argument centers on the First Amendment, contending that satirical content creators like The Babylon Bee should not face the additional concern of potential infringement on their freedom of expression by state authorities. 

According to the brief, “The law regulates speech through two provisions: The Reporting Mechanism and the Disclosure Requirement. The Reporting Mechanism silences expression, while the Disclosure Requirement compels speech.” 

The brief contends that the Reporting Mechanism “authorizes and encourages users to report other users’ protected speech to social media networks.” 

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argue that such “tattle-tale requirements chill reasonable people’s speech by discouraging them from making comments that might arguably fit within a reportable category of speech.” 

 Concerning the law’s requirement that platforms endorse and publish New York’s definition of “hateful conduct” on their own websites and applications, the brief argues that there’s a “cruel irony—and probably a good joke somewhere” about forcing pro-free speech Plaintiffs such as the professor and others to “publish, promote, and adopt an anti-free speech policy.” 

Finally, the brief argues that the Online Hate Speech Law is “overbroad,” which makes online satire “impossible.” 

In a statement on Alliance Defending Freedom Media, ADF Legal Counsel Bryan Neihart said that the satirists at The Babylon Bee already have their work cut out for them just trying to keep their satirical headlines weeks or even days ahead of actual news—they shouldn’t also have to worry that humorless state officials will deprive them of their First Amendment freedoms. 

“Every American is free to peacefully express his point of view, and that includes humor and sarcasm. Our freedoms don’t hinge on whether the state agrees with what we have to say, or whether they appreciate our sense of humor,” Neihart added.  

ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco criticized the law for attempting to force individuals and social media platforms to engage in self-censorship, violating the principles of the First Amendment. “So-called ‘hateful conduct’ policies are impermissibly overbroad and permit those applying them to censor opinions they don’t like. We’re seeing that form of censorship more and more from government officials, social media platforms, and even financial institutions. That’s a disturbing trend and it needs to stop,” Tedesco said.  

The brief concludes with an uncharacteristically tongue-in-cheek statement for a legal document, stating: “For the sake of protecting free discourse consistent with the spirit of America’s enduring democracy, ensuring open debate in the public square that harkens back to Socrates, Aristotle, and other Important Greeks, and keeping The Bee’s writers from having to move back in with their parents after being censored by New York’s unconstitutional speech compulsion and suppression, The Bee requests that this Court affirm the district court’s order. New York’s Online Hate Speech Law would be laughable—if its consequences weren’t so serious.  

A fitting conclusion for a brief on behalf of the self-proclaimed “world’s best satire site totally inerrant in all its truth claims.”  

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life. 

Alliance Defending Freedom Church Alliance and Alliance Defending Freedom Ministry Alliance operate as distinct yet closely linked entities under the umbrella of Alliance Defending Freedom. They share the goal of offering legal advocacy, resources, and assistance to churches and faith-based organizations. The objective is to empower these entities to exercise their religious beliefs freely and actively engage in societal issues without facing legal obstacles.  

This content is provided by an independent source for informational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. Consult an attorney or financial advisor when making decisions. This information is provided by legal writers and does not reflect the views or opinions of The Daily Sundial editorial staff.

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