Joke-Telling Genitals Don't Get Free-Speech Protection

A penis that tells jokes on late night public access television may be expressive of something. But it is not the kind of free expression protected by the First Amendment, the Michigan Court of Appeals has decided, confirming the indecent exposure conviction of the show's producer and host.

Timothy Huffman, 47, who lives north of Grand Rapids, was convicted in Kent County after the penis episode aired twice in spring 2000 on the Grand Rapids public access cable channel GRTV.

In affirming the conviction in an opinion released Wednesday, the appeals court said any "incidental restriction" on the First Amendment is "no greater than is essential to the furtherance of the governmental interest in promoting public morality by prohibiting public nudity."

Huffman, whose defense was assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union, claimed the three-minute segment, "Dick Smart," was an expression of free speech and not obscene.

Details here from the Detroit Free Press. The court's opinion is here. (via Obscure Store)

UPDATE: Ernest Miller of The Importance of . . . thinks the court's application of an indecent exposure law to television, despite the First Amendment, is wrong and dangerous.