Iowa’s ‘ag-gag’ law violates First Amendment, federal judge rules

First Amendment

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A federal judge on Wednesday struck down an Iowa law that makes it a crime to obtain access to an agricultural production facility under false pretenses.

U.S. District Judge James Gritzner of Des Moines said the “ag-gag” law violates the First Amendment, report Courthouse News Service, the Associated Press and the Des Moines Register. A press release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is here.

The state enacted the law in 2012 amid media reports on abuse of animals at industrial farms in the state. One undercover investigation by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals found that workers beat pigs with metal rods and stuck clothespins into the animals’ eyes and faces.

Lawmakers who passed the bill said they wanted to protect the facilities and prevent harms from investigative reporting, Gritzner wrote in his opinion.

“The right to make the kinds of false statements implicated by [the law]—whether they be investigative deceptions or innocuous lies—is protected by our country’s guarantee of free speech and expression,” Gritzner wrote.

Similar laws in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming have been narrowed or struck down by the federal courts.

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