Six Recent Acts of Crazy from the Tennessee Legislature

tennessee legislatureI have relatives in Tennessee, and one thing that drove me crazy was a state law that required you to be 18 to see an R-rated movie. They had to card you and everything. It was just a little taste of how annoying the South could be, but Tennessee’s 107th Legislature seems out to claim the crown of “most bizarre laws passed” from Texas.

Even better, most of these laws aren’t actually new bills, but provisions tacked onto old laws. For example:

1. You Can’t Share Your Netflix Password

netflixYes, this is against the law in Tennessee.

The idea is to prevent “bulk password stealing.” That is, you give your one thousand closest friends the passwords to your accounts with streaming websites. According to the Tennessee Legislature, the idea is to prevent hackers from selling Netflix passwords in bulk, which is such a threat we’re pretty sure this is the first time you heard of it, especially since Google doesn’t seem able to cough up any incident of hackers actually doing this.

Nonetheless, for “stealing” as little as $500 worth of content, you’d have to pay a $2500 fine and spend up to a year in jail. So…basically you’d have to use somebody’s Netflix password for 50 months? How do they even calculate this?

2. You Can’t Send Anybody Goatse

goatPictured: Not Goatse

Tennessee has a reasonable law on the books to prevent stalking. Basically, if you’re, say, repeatedly calling somebody on the phone, and can’t prove to the courts that you had a good reason for doing so, you have to stop or go to jail.

But, for some inexplicable reason, the law has been broadened to include “offensive images” on the Internet. Well, that makes sense, you might think. Repeatedly sending somebody scary pictures is a dickhead move.

One problem: the way the law is written, it doesn’t matter if you weren’t intending anybody to see it. If you post a picture somebody finds offensive, you’re in trouble. Even better, the law doesn’t even define what “offensive” is, so you could find your ass in a Tennessee court because you posted a picture of a Teletubby. The legal standard is “you should have known” it was offensive.

We wonder what will happen first: this law gets struck down under free speech ruling, or some snotty atheist sues a church to take down all pictures of Jesus from their website. After all, they should have known they were offensive.

3. They Very Nearly Gave College Professors Concealed Weapons

weaponWhile Vols fans can be pretty rowdy, it seems unlikely that professors on campus would need to hide a firearm on their betweeded person to control students. Yet, the Tennessee Legislature nearly granted them the right to do just that, despite the fact that not even the professors wanted the right to keep a Desert Eagle handy for that snotty kid who just has to insist the United States only has forty-six states because four members are commonwealths.

This appears to be the hobby horse of one Andy Holt, who, for some reason, wants professors to be able to conceal guns. To be fair to Holt, he’s not utterly insane; this would only extend to faculty who already had handgun permits, which this being Tennessee is most of them in the first place.

Still, his first hint that this wasn’t going to be popular should have been the fact that students, parents, UT security staff and the professors were all waiting to testify against the bill.

4. They Tried To Pretend Middle-Schoolers Have No Gaydar

andy dickWe’d like to think, in this day and age, that even people who don’t like gays are perfectly willing to admit that, yes, there are people who prefer to bone their own gender. Regardless of what you think, they do exist. But apparently kids under the age of fourteen don’t need to know about homosexuals. Specifically, the bill wants to ban any discussion of homosexuality except in “age-appropriate natural human reproduction science.” In other words, sex education.

Our first question is to wonder whether or not Stacey Campfield, the sponsor of this bill, has cable and if he does (yes, this is a bill sponsored by a guy with an extremely gay name), whether he realizes most kids do too. The really bizarre thing is the law would ban teachers from discussing homosexuality with, er, homosexual students. Or talking about TV shows that have gay characters. Or celebrities that happen to be gay. Not that never talking about Adam Lambert again would be a bad thing, but depriving our children of Neil Patrick Harris seems cruel and unfair.

Basically he’s trying to ban classroom chatter. We can’t wait for his next bill, banning cootie catchers as they are obviously a form of witchcraft.

5. They Tried To Ban Being Mean To People On The Internet

mean on the internetHey, remember that image ban we talked about? There’s another provision of that we felt worth discussing: the one that basically protects anybody from hearing anything that might criticize their opinion.

Again, the problem is how vague the law in question is: in theory, if somebody read a criticism of a movie they didn’t like, they could supposedly take that person to court. And, of course, it doesn’t matter if that’s addressed directly at them, anybody could stumble across it and find it offensive.

To be fair, the problem is as much about the medium as it is the message. If you post a thousand word screed about how your suddenly-ex girlfriend has been cheating on you with your scumbag boss, said bitter, hostile missive is directly in part towards that evil troll. But it’s also aimed at everybody you know, and the laws were written well before Mark Zuckerberg stole Facebook from some twins or something, we’re not sure what happened, we spent most of that movie stoned.

So you want to protect Tennessee from the Internet, is what you’re trying to do?

6. They Tried to Ban Muslims

muslims tennesseeEver since 9/11, Muslims in America have had a hard time of it, partially because of people who seem unable or unwilling to understand that 99.9% of Muslims aren’t terrorists, and any Muslims who didn’t like the US probably would not be living here and holding down a day job. But Tennessee took this to a new extreme recently, by basically trying to ban Muslims.

This needs a little background: Murfreesboro, TN, is currently in a huge legal battle over whether or not the town’s Muslim population is allowed to build a mosque. Never mind that they sought and got the correct permits, did everything they were asked to, and so on, a segment of the population has been trying to stop this mosque from being built. As for what logic they use, let’s just say this argument has not precisely done wonders for the South’s reputation as a place tolerant of all races, creeds and colors.

Anyway, the state rep from Murfreesboro, Bill Ketron (who also just happens to be responsible for the bill trying to control the Internet), decided he hadn’t quite ruined his state’s reputation enough and introduced a law that would ban the practice of Sharia law in Tennessee. Anybody caught practicing it would be sent to jail for 15 years.

To give you an idea of just how clueless this is, that’s a bit like trying to order local synagogues to start serving ham dinners. While it does talk about secular matters, just like, oh, every other religious text, the idea of actually implementing Sharia law as the law of the land is largely restricted to religious extremists. Most Muslims follow Sharia to, for example, know what times it’s good to pray.

Needless to say, Ketron’s attempt to de facto ban an entire religion is running into a few problems, like the Constitution. But we’re sure he’ll keep trying; he seems to enjoy pointless tasks that make him look like an arrogant douche.

This is just a sampling of what Tennessee has offered up so far: their legislative session will pick up again in the fall. We’re looking forward to their attempts to arrest Rick Astley for publicly obnoxious behavior, passing laws that make 4Chan illegal and generally embarrassing the rest of the South. Shine on, you crazy state legislators. Shine on.

Wait, you guys didn’t ban Pink Floyd, right?