The ACLU of Louisiana sued the state Monday in an effort to block enforcement of a new law that bars convicted sex offenders from Internet sites that offer communication between users.
The suit provoked a caustic response from Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“This lawsuit is a disturbing break from reality, even for the ACLU,” Jindal said in a written statement. “As Governor and the father of three young kids, I will fight the ACLU every step of the way and do everything I can to keep our kids safe from the monsters who want to harm them.”
Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, issued her own written statement.
“Everyone wants to protect children from those who would do them harm,” Esman said. “Reasonable restrictions to prevent future crimes are appropriate in the interest of public safety.
“However, banning access to all sorts of online information, without any connection to a crime or access to children, is using a bulldozer where a trowel would do,” Esman added.
The ACLU suit was filed in Baton Rouge federal court on behalf of a John Doe convicted for possession of child pornography. It was assigned to U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola.
The unnamed sex offender is a disabled veteran who served four years in prison for his crime, the suit states.
He is employed as a compliance officer and computer repair technician, according to the suit. Because his work requires him to use Internet search engines, databases and other online resources, the new law could cost him his job.
The ACLU suit says the new law also would force the man to end his email account and disable his blog. The suit alleges these restrictions would violate the man’s First Amendment rights to free speech.
“The ACLU’s lawsuit represents a criminal, already convicted of child pornography, who wants to use social networking sites and peer-to-peer sharing sites,” Jindal said. “This is exactly what we designed our new law to prevent.”
Esman countered: “For the government to ban access to virtually all information on the Internet is overreaching and opens the door to further government intrusion on everyone’s First Amendment rights.”
The governor said he viewed the law much differently.
“We will not comply with this request to allow convicted sex predators to use social networking sites,” Jindal said. “If these people want to search the Internet for new victims, they can do it somewhere else.
“Just a few weeks ago, federal officials announced the bust of the largest international online pornography ring, which is connected to Louisiana and will be prosecuted here,” Jindal noted. He said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described confiscated photos as “some of the most disturbing images, I think, you will ever see.”
Jindal added: “It is frankly insulting for the ACLU to claim it is a convicted sex offender’s ‘First Amendment right’ to use Facebook, MySpace and Craigslist.”