The National Lawyers Guild has issued a policy paper showing the influence of model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative group of state legislators, on state legislation around the country. Federal legislation passed in 2006, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), was largely drafted by ALEC and has drawn a great deal of attention and criticism from animal rights and environmental activists.
The Act which purports to protect animal enterprises from so-called “eco-terrorists,” is a vague and unnecessarily broad law that has already been used to restrict First Amendment rights. The Guild’s policy paper, Beyond AETA: How Corporate-Crafted Legislation Brands Activists as Terrorists, explains that AETA is not unique in this respect. Similar bills have been introduced in several state legislatures over the last few years, and most of them stem from the model bill produced by ALEC. ALEC’s model legislation:
Suggests adding the phrase “politically motivated” to the definition of an “animal or ecological terrorist organization,” which clearly shows that the bill is designed to suppress speech based on its content.
Defines illegal activity so broadly that anyone using the Internet or email to plan (or even express support for) an act of “animal or ecological terrorism” can be charged.
Creates a “terrorist registry” – an online database open to the public which contains names, addresses and photos of everyone convicted of “animal or ecological terrorism.”
NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian said: “Although many states considered and outright rejected the ALEC bill soon after its release, there are still signs that parts of the legislation are being incorporated in some states’ laws that equate animal rights activists with domestic terrorism. The Guild remains vigilant in tracking the development of such overly-broad legislation.”
The full text of the policy paper is available for download below. The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.