Blogger files lawsuit over free speech

May 31, 2012 at 6:31 PM
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CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 31 (UPI) -- A North Carolina blogger says the state violated his freedom of speech when it restricted what advice he could give on his diet blog.

Steve Cooksey, 50, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charlotte this week, claiming the state of North Carolina violated his First Amendment rights to free speech by putting limits on what he can say on his blog, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Cooksey started his blog, "Diabetes Warrior," to share his experience and offer advice on weight loss and keeping diabetes under control the way he did, by eating a low-carbohydrate, meat-and-vegetables diet.

In January, the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition received a complaint that Cooksey was providing "nutrition care services" without a license.

The board then sent Cooksey copies of 19 pages from his 3-year-old blog with comments from the board pointing out the differences between describing his own experience and telling someone else what to do.

"In the first scenario, you are just sharing your opinion; in the second you are advising," the board's note said. "Counseling/advising requires a license."

In April, the board notified Cooksey he was in "substantial compliance," and the investigation was closed, but the blogger was already searching for a lawyer at that point.

"There's so many people who do what I do. Why single me out?" Cooksey asked Wednesday at a news conference in Charlotte.

Cooksey's lawyer said the blogger is not seeking monetary compensation and just wants to be allowed to reinstate the question-and-answer portion of his blog, in which the blogger gives out advice.

"When a government agency tells you, even in an educational capacity, that you're violating a criminal law to speak, the natural reaction is that you're going to stop speaking," said Paul Sherman, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va. "There simply is no bright light between 'nutrition care services' and the sort of ordinary advice that Steve wants to be able to share and that millions of Americans share every day."

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