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N.J. state senators target 'explicit lyrics'

By David Hudson
The Freedom Forum Online

Two New Jersey state senators have taken aim at explicit music lyrics by introducing in the Legislature a bill to require parental advisory warning labels.

The measure, introduced Sept. 25 by Republican state Sens. Gerald Cardinale and Diane Allen, would prohibit the sale of "any phonograph record, magnetic tape or compact disc" that contains lyrics which "explicitly describe, advocate or encourage" the following: "suicide, incest, bestiality, sadomasochism, rape or involuntary sexual penetration ... murder, morbid violence, ethnic, racial or racial intimidation, the use of illegal drugs or the excessive or illegal use of alcohol."

Under the measure, material containing such "explicit lyrics" must bear a label with the words "Parental Advisory and Warning."

Persons found guilty under this bill would face a fine up to $500 or imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both.

Monica Lanza, Cardinale's senior aide, says the measure is almost identical to a measure the senator introduced in 1990 after attending a seminar conducted by investigators from a local district attorney's office at his then-teenage daughter's high school.

"The reintroduction of this bill is not tied to a particular event," Lanza said. "The senator just feels that a lot of the material in this media is very destructive for youngsters."

"The New Jersey labeling bill is clearly unconstitutional," says Robert O'Neil, founder of the Virginia-based Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. "Even though viewed as a labeling measure, it provides the government with the capacity to regulate material that the First Amendment disallows."

O'Neil says the subjects that are to be labeled in the New Jersey measure "are far too broad" and inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court case law. For example, he says requiring the labeling of any material that describes or advocates "racial intimidation" or "religious intimidation" is clearly unconstitutional.

Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union, also opposes the measure. "We disagree with the government imposing these types of guidelines on music," she said. "The list of content that triggers the labeling requirement "would cover nearly every record album in a music store," she said.

The measure has been referred to the Senate's State Government Committee. No hearing date has been set.


Wisconsin Senate considers criminalizing sale of music with warning labels

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