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Monday, June 09, 2003

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ACLUM Agrees to Represent Nambla in
Freedom of Speech Case


The ACLU of Massachusetts has agreed to represent the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) in a civil lawsuit brought in U.S. District Court by the family of Jeffrey Curley.

The suit, an action for wrongful death and for civil rights violations, alleges that NAMBLA is responsible for the kidnapping, rape and murder of the 10-year-old boy by Charles Jaynes and Salvatore Sicari because its publications and the material which appeared on its Internet site "urged the general public to illegally rape male children." The plaintiffs claim that Jaynes and become a member of NAMBLA approximately one year prior to the murder and that, as a result of reading its publications and the material on its web site, "became obsessed with having sex with and raping young male children."

NAMBLA, which takes the position that sexual relationships between men and boys can be appropriate and should be legal, is considered to be one of the most controversial organizations in the United States.

ACLUM Executive Director John Roberts described the concerns which prompted ACLUM to take on NAMBLA’s defense. "While we join with all others in deploring the heinous crimes committed against Jeffrey Curley, two people have been convicted of his murder and are serving life sentences. The Curley lawsuit seeks millions of dollars in damages against NAMBLA because one of the murderers allegedly looked at the organization’s publications and web site prior to committing the crimes. There was nothing in those publications or web site which advocated or incited the commission of any illegal acts, including murder or rape."

The web site contained materials that advocated for legislative change of age-of-consent laws concerning sex between adults and adolescents and included statements by various writers, including Allen Ginsburg and Camille Paglia, references to academic journals about sexuality, some fiction and poetry, and a clear statement against coercive sex or breaking the law. NAMBLA’s publications, principally the NAMBLA Bulletin, contain the same types of material, interspersed with eroticized depictions of young boys.

ACLUM Legal Director John Reinstein, who is one of the lawyers representing NAMBLA in the suit, acknowledged that "I think it is fair to say that most people disagree with NAMBLA and that many would find its publications offensive. Regardless of whether people agree with or abhor NAMBLA’s views, holding the organization responsible for crimes committed by others who read their materials would gravely endanger important First Amendment freedoms."

Reinstein maintains that in "Brandenburg v. Ohio", the Supreme Court has made it clear that a speech or publication is protected under the First Amendment unless it is ‘directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.’ NAMBLA’s materials are simply not in this category. While NAMBLA may extol conduct which is currently illegal, its materials fall far short of speech that may be prohibited. If that rule were to be changed to allow a suit like this one, it would introduce a regime of conformity to majority rule that would threaten the very right to dissent."

While intent on pressing their suit against NAMBLA, the Curley family has acknowledged ACLU’s concerns. In a Boston Globe article which appeared shortly after the ACLU entered the case, Jeffrey Curley’s father, Bob Curley, is quoted as saying that he harbors no ill feelings toward the ACLU for defending the case. "I really do have respect for them (ACLU)", said Curley. "They are very consistent in whom they defend. It takes a lot of nerve to defend the groups they have over the years. They have a lot of courage."

A legal brief filed in the case can be read online at:

NAMBLALegalBrief
ACLU statement on defending free speech of unpopular organizations