August 28 2012

North Carolina: Land of the Not So Free to Blog

Julie Gunlock

North Carolina government officials don't hold the state's citizens in very high regard. After all, North Carolina is the state where your child's home packed meal can be replaced with a grim school lunch of chicken nuggets because government officials think you're too stupid to provide your child with a healthy lunch.  In North Carolina, it's against the law to order a medium rare hamburger at a restaurant because the government wants to protect you from your "dangerous" decision to eat undercooked meat.  And now, it's illegal to blog about your own diet habits and give advice unless you're a licensed nutritionist because North Carolina government officials think the average citizen is incapable of judging a source for dieting advice.

Carolina Journal reporter Sara Burrows (she famously broke the North Carolina chicken nugget story earlier this year) reports on the recent case of a blogger who found an audience for his popular Paleo-diet blog:

A federal judge said a Charlotte-area man advocating a Paleolithic or “caveman” diet on his blog is “unlikely to succeed” in his claim that the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition has violated his freedom of speech.

In an order dated Aug. 7, U.S. District Court Judge Max Coburn denied Steve Cooksey’s request for a preliminary injunction against the board, which Cooksey claims is stopping him from giving nutritional advice on his blog, Diabetes-Warrior.net.

Three years ago Cooksey started a blog about his success controlling his diabetes through a diet low in carbs and rich in pasture-raised meats, animal fat, and vegetables. The blog attracted thousands of followers, led dozens of other diabetics to try Cooksey’s diet, and prompted questions from readers, which he began to answer in a Dear-Abby-style advice column.

Soon he started offering a “Diabetes Support Package,” a life-coaching service for people trying to adopt his diet and lifestyle, for a fee.

But his progress came to a screeching halt in January, when the state nutrition board caught wind of his website and informed him it was a crime to provide nutritional advice or “counseling” without a license.

The board’s director went through his blog with a red pen, underlining language she said was illegal, and “suggested” he remove it. If Cooksey failed to comply, the director said the blogger could be fined up to $10,000 and spend as many as 120 days in jail. So he removed it.

State law requires individuals to obtain a professional license before making such assessments, so Cooksey deleted anything that looked like “advice” about what “individuals” or particular “groups” of people should be eating. He believes he has been censored, which violates his freedom of speech.

Read Ms. Burrows' whole piece here.

 

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