Readers concerned about incursions of Islamic law into Western society often ask me what they can do about. Well, besides filling your larders with Danish imports, here's something: Contact members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and urge them to pass the federal version of New York State's "Rachel's Law," which I have written about here. It is called THE FREE SPEECH PROTECTION ACT (S-2977 & H.R. 5814), and it has been introduced by Reps. Peter King (R-NY) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA).
More info below, including lawmakers' email addresses.
Like NYS's "Rachel's Law" this federal bill would protect American journalists from libel suits brought in foreign jurisdictions lacking the same free speech protections found in the U.S. Constitution.
The bill has been assigned to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
If free speech is important to you, PLEASE contact the House and Senate Judiciary Committees' Members and staff (contacts below) and urge them to approve the bill and vote for its passage as soon as possible.
"Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of expression of ideas, opinions, and research, and freedom of exchange of information are all essential to the functioning of a democracy, and the fight against terrorism," Senator Specter said. "There is a real danger that American writers and researchers will be afraid to address the crucial subject of terror funding and other important matters without these protections."
"Discovering the truth requires full and open debate, which is not possible when courts are used to chill inquiry and research," Senator Lieberman said. "The freedom of American journalists should not be threatened by foreign courts that do not adhere to America's principles of free speech."
"Our journalists provide us with insight on issues that affect all Americans, such as war and terrorism," Rep. King said. "We cannot allow their voices to be silenced by those who prefer to keep secret
the inner details of these issues. American authors and journalists should be able to practice their first amendment right without the fear of a lawsuit."
This legislation will create federal jurisdiction and a federal cause of action allowing federal courts to determine---when foreigners sue U.S. journalists, speakers, or academics in foreign courts for their U.S. speeches or publications---whether defamation has occurred under U.S. law. The bill will authorize a U.S. court to bar enforcement in the U.S. of a foreign judgment or damage awards.
The impetus for this legislation is litigation involving Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, a U.S. citizen and Director of the American Center for Democracy (www.acdemocracy.org). Dr. Ehrenfeld's 2003 book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, which was published solely in the United States by a U. S. publisher, alleged that a Saudi Arabian and his family financially supported Al Qaeda in the years preceding the attacks of September 11. Although only 23 books were sold in the United Kingdom, the Saudi sued Ehrenfeld for libel there.
Defamation plaintiffs around the world have made the U.K. a popular venue for libel suits since English law does not require a libel plaintiff to prove falsity or actual malice as is does U.S. law. Until
now, U.S. journalists or publications named as defendants in such cases were not protected by the First Amendment in the U.S. Rather, they were forced either to take on the massive expense, inconvenience and distress of fighting a foreign libel case, or of accepting the defamation inveighed on them by the courts otherwise certain to rule against them by default.
To protect U.S. writers, publishers and free speech rights against frivolous foreign libel suits---and a bedrock foundation of U.S. Democracy---it is critical that all Americans urge members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to support this measure.
Below is a sample letter---and links to websites of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee Members and their staffs.
PLEASE SUPPORT THE FREE SPEECH PROTECTION ACT (S-2977 & H.R. 5814),
aka "Rachel's Law"
"Rachel's Law" was introduced to provide legal protections from
"libel terrorism" to New York authors and publishers. In a tremendous
victory for free speech rights, the bill passed both the Assembly and
the Senate and was signed by Governor Patterson on May 1, 2008.
Legislation to protect authors and publishers in all states has now
been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (bill number H.R.
5814) and Senate (bill number S-2977). Entitled the "Free Speech
Protection Act," introduced by Representatives Peter King (R-NY) and
Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Arlen
This bill would protect American journalists from libel suits brought
in foreign courts that do not have the same protections for free
speech that are found in the U.S. Constitution.
I urge you to support efforts to approve the bill and vote for its
passage as soon as possible.
Below is contact information for the Senatorial Judiciary Committee,
the Congressional Judiciary Committee, and Staff.
General Judiciary Committee - http://judiciary.house.gov/contact.aspx
Staff Majority Communications Director Jonathan Godfrey -
Majority Press Secretary/Spokesperson Melanie Roussell - (202) 225-3951
Majority Staff Director/Chief Counsel Perry Apelbaum -
Minority Chief of Staff/General Counselor - (202) 226-0002
Minority Communications Director Kim Smith - (202) 225-6906
Senators on Committee
NY Charles Schumer -
Press Secretary Brian Fallon - (202) 224-7433
VT Patrick J. Leahy - http://leahy.senate.gov/contact.cfm
Press Secretary Erica Chabot - (202) 224-2154
MA Edward Kennedy - http://kennedy.senate.gov/senator/contact.cfm
Press Secretary Melissa Wagoner - (202) 224-2633
DE Joseph Biden - http://biden.senate.gov/services/contact/
Press Secreatary Elizabeth Alexander - (202) 224-2154
WI Herbert Kohl - http://kohl.senate.gov/gen_contact.html
Press Secretary Lynn Becker - (202) 224-2240
WI Russ Feingold - http://feingold.senate.gov/contact_opinion.html
Press Secretary Zach Lowe - (202) 224-8657
CA Dianne Feinstein -
Press Secretary Scott Gerber - (202) 224-8657
IL Richard Durbin - http://durbin.senate.gov/contact.cfm#contact
Press Secretary Joe Shoemaker - (202) 224-7028
MD Benjamin Cardin - http://cardin.senate.gov/contact/
Press Secretary Sue Walitsky - (202) 224-7433
RI Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse -
Press Secretary Alex Swartsel - (202) 224-7433
PA Arlen Specter -
Press Secretary Chris Gindlesperger - (202) 224-5225
UT Orrin Hatch -
Press Secretary Mark Eddington (202) 224-5251
IA Charles Grassley -
Press Secretary Beth Levine - (202) 224-6197
AZ Jon Kyl - http://kyl.senate.gov/contact_form.cfm
Press Secretary Andrew Wilder - (202) 224-4521
AL Jeff Sessions -
Press Secretary Michael Brumas - (202) 224-4124
SC Lindsey Graham -
Press Secretary Wes Hickman - (202) 224-5972
TX John Cornyn -
Press Secretary Brian Walsh - (202) 224-2934
KS Sam Brownback - http://brownback.senate.gov/CMEmailMe.cfm
Press Secretary John Rankin - (202) 224-6521
OK Tom Coburn -
Press Secretary John Hart - (202) 224-5754
NY-9th Anthony Weiner - http://weiner.house.gov/email_anthony.aspx
NY-8th Jerrold Nadler –
CA-24th Elton Gallegly -
CA-3rd Dan Lungren -
CA-29th Adam Schiff -
CA-28th Howard Berman -
CA-16th Zoe Lofgren - http://lofgren.house.gov/emailform.shtml
CA-35th Maxine Waters - http://www.house.gov/waters/IMA/issue.htm
CA-39th Linda Sanchez -
CA-27th Brad Sherman -
CA-49th Darrell Issa -
MI 14th John Conyers (Chair) -
VA-9th Rick Boucher -
VA-3rd Bobby Scott –
VA-6th Bob Goodlatte - http://www.house.gov/goodlatte/emailbob.htm
VA-4th Randy Forbes - http://forbes.house.gov/zipauth.html
NC-12th Rep. Melvin Watt -
MA-10th William Delahunt - William.Delahunt@mail.house.gov
FL-8th Ric Keller -
FL-24th Tom Feeney - email@example.com
FL-20th Debbie Wasserman Schultz -
FL-19th Robert Wexler - http://wexler.house.gov/email.shtml
TN-9th Stephen Cohen -
GA-4th Hank Johnson -
OH-13th Betty Sutton - http://sutton.house.gov/about/emailform.cfm
IL-4th Luis Gutierrez -
WI-2nd Tammy Baldwin -
AL-7th Artur Davis - http://www.house.gov/davis/zipauth.htm
MN-5th Keith Ellison -
TX-21st Lamar S. Smith (Ranking Member) -
TX-18th Sheila Jackson Lee -
TX-1st Louie Gohmert - http://gohmert.house.gov/contact_louie.htm
WI-5th F. James Sensenbrenner -
NC-6th Howard Coble - firstname.lastname@example.org
UT-3rd Chris Cannon - email@example.com
IN-6th Mike Pence -
IA-5th Steve King – firstname.lastname@example.org
AZ-2nd Trent Franks -
OH-4th Jim Jordan -
OH-1st Steve Chabot - http://www.house.gov/chabot/zipauth.shtml