The right to an individual’s free speech faces even more hurdles, as a health food blogger may be subjected to arrest for advocating to his readers how he cured his diabetes; just one of the many rights under fire in America today, including due process and the most basic right, the right to live.
An April 23, 2012 article, State Threatens to Shut Down Nutrition Blogger, appearing on the Carolina Journal Online, Sara Burrows explains how the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is threatening blogger Steve Cooksey with jail time for publically stating his battle with diabetes and promoting others to choose his lifestyle.
In February 2009, Cooksey was hospitalized with diabetes. Cooksey then adopted the low-carb, high-protein Paleo diet, commonly referred to as the “caveman” or “hunter-gatherer” diet.
Within 30 days of Cooksey beginning the diet, he was drug and insulin free and by May 2009, he lost 45 pounds and decided to blog about his story.
While attending a nutrition seminar on January 12, at a church in Charlotte, Cooksey passed out some business cards to patrons showcasing his website.
And, lo and behold, Cooksey received a call three days later from Charla Burill, the board’s director, informing him that he is giving nutritional advice without a license.
”’Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it a misdemeanor to “practice dietetics or nutrition” without a license. According to the law, “practicing” nutrition includes “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” and “providing nutrition counseling.”‘
If Cooksey doesn’t modify his three-year-old blog, he can be sued by the licensing board. Also, Cooksey could face 120 days in jail if he loses the lawsuit and refuses to take down his blog.
That’s right, 120 days simply for trying to share the information that helped him conquer diabetes.
Cooksey is currently seeking legal assistance in the event the state decides to take additional action against him.
The disclaimer that reads, “I am not a doctor, dietitian, nor nutritionist … in fact I have no medical training of any kind,” on every page of Cooksey’s blog, did not seem to matter one bit to Burill.
“”If I’ve given you reason to not worry that I don’t have a license because I have all these other reasons I’m an expert, you could still harm the public,” she said. “At least you’re not trying to mislead the public, but you’re trying to get the public to trust you.””
Declan McCullagh, a correspondent for CBSnews.com, who writes about free speech, among other topics, sees it differently.
“The First Amendment says state and federal governments ‘shall make no law’ abridging freedom of speech,” McCullagh said. “It doesn’t say ‘except for what annoys the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutrition.’”
“”McCullagh said the board may be on more solid ground in its complaint about the telephone support packages Cooksey offers. “But … if customers are paying $97 or $149 or $197 a month to have someone listen, that sounds a lot like life coaching, which doesn’t require a license.””
McCullagh added, “In general, I think that as long as someone is very clear that they’re not a licensed dietician, state officials can probably find better uses of their time.”
In order to obtain a better understanding on how Cooksey answered his inquires, lets look at some of his blogs (edited for format and style) as well as the comments made by Burill.
“Vegetarian & Diabetes Question
By Steve Cooksey on December 2, 2011
This is the initial entry in a new category of posts called, Diabetes Questions.”
Periodically I will select questions and answer them via post.”
Burill’s Comments: “If people are writing you with diabetic specific questions and you are no longer just providing information — you are counseling — you need a license to provide this service.”
“My Meal Plan
Since August 2009, less than 50 grams of carbs per day . I generally stay below 30 grams per day. Over the last six months, I am typically in the 15 to 25 gram range per day and I exercise almost every day.
This is a meal plan not just for Diabetics. It is a meal plan that all people can live with…”
Burill’s Comments: “It is acceptable to provide just this information, but when you start recommending it directly to people you speak to or who write you, you are now providing diabetic counseling, which requires a license.”
“Equally important, I have experience in helping others do the same!
Let me help you:
1) Improve blood sugar control
2) Lose Weight
3) Improve your health and fitness
Choose a package that best fits your needs… and let’s get busy!”
Burill’s Comments: “Need a license…”
For more observations, check out the document originally posted on Cooksey’s website.
Is it just me or is the jail time Cooksey is facing complete asinine?
As one can see in the aforementioned blogs, Cooksey was not giving medical advice, he was just illustrating how the Paleo diet helped cure his diabetes and offered suggestions to those seeking to learn how to do the same thing.
Since when is offering help a crime? Apparently, it is if you are not a licensed nutritionist or dietician.
The law is in place supposedly in order to protect safety: “It is the purpose of this Article to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare and to protect the public from being harmed by unqualified persons by providing for the licensure and regulation of persons engaged in the practice of dietetics/nutrition and by the establishment of educational standards for those persons. (1991, c. 668, s. 1.)”
If a state has requirements in order for someone to be licensed to practice traditional medicine, I’m perfectly fine with that.
Obviously, when I’m given medication for my sports-induced asthma, I want someone knowledgeable about the process, but I still seek outside resources from those going through it in order to see if there are alternative remedies.
However, what I object to is state-run medical monopolies that want to squash the competition of natural medicine and food. My suggestion is to let non-traditional and traditional medicines coexist and let a truly free market be allowed.
I’m glad I don’t live in North Carolina, because this comment could have landed me in jail.
Also, whatever happened to common sense discretion in law with matters such as the one Cooksey is involved with? Maybe it’s difficult to fathom anymore.
What’s next, alternative media outlets having to put disclaimers on everything they write so they don’t get sued, fined or jailed?
“Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference. Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total control over its citizens’ lives. Liberty has meaning only if we still believe in it when terrible things happen and a false government security blanket beckons,” wrote libertarian-leaning congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul in his essay on Security and Liberty in April of 2007.
Source: End The Lie – Brent Daggett