Rainbow/Legaliaison Update 5/18/93

There are many different preceptions of reality. In service to understanding, Legaliaison/DC contrasts its preception of the new regulation (in bold) with the preception of the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard, May 8, 1993 (in italics).


The U.S. Forest Service has proposed new rules requiring equal treatment for large groups of people seeking permits to gather in national forests."

To say this rule requires equal treatment is a classic example of Orwellian newspeak (i.e., "War is Peace"). As things have stood from time immemorial, people have had an "inalienable right" to peaceably assemble. An "inalienable right" is inherent, that means it cannot be taken away, or, as the First Amendment guarantees, it cannot be "abridged." By contrast a "privilege," like, for example, driving a motor vehicle, requires a "authorization" (a "permit." Unlike a "right," government may legally abridge privileges. Because people always had the equal right to peaceably assemble on public lands, there is absolutely no need for any "new rules requiring equal treatment."

"The new rules change the definition of a "group event" to avoid discrimination against groups such as the Rainbow Family, as well as fringe political or religious organizations."

More doubletalk. The extent to which "group event" has been redined merely gives the government the power - previously prohibited under the First Amendment - to discriminate against any "group event" which the government might choose to discriminate against. In real terms, this regulation would only "prevent discrimination" to whatever extent the government may decide not to discriminate.

"The rules also govern distribution of leaflets and other printed material."

Right, but why?

"The Rainbow Family, a loosely knit group formed in 1972, holds annual gatherings of thousands of people on national forest land to celebrate nature and communal living.

"The group held a 1978 gathering in the Umpqua National Forest that drew 15,000 members, and 1,000 to 2,000 members met for a regional nine-day gathering in June 1991 at an Umpqua forest site about 60 miles east of Roseburg."

The Rainbow Family also gathers to pray for peace on earth and to communicate. Before this proposed regulation, all of that - Freedom of Thought, Expression, and Assembly, was considered "constitutionally protected behavior." If this proposed regulation becomes law, that "protected behavior" will become "a crime," punishable by six months in prison and $500.00 fine.

"The 1991 meeting was opposed by groups and individuals who complained that the site, in proposed spotted owl habitat, was too sensitive to support such a large gathering.

"But Forest Service officials allowed the event to be held, noting that the much larger 1978 gathering hadn't damaged the forest."

The First Amendment does not protect someone who "falsely yells 'fire' in a crowded theater," so the Forest Service could prohibit gatherings if they posed some real danger. Under new proposal the Forest Service could prohibit gatherings if an official simply feels the proposed activity will not meet "seven criteria." These "seven criteria" also happen to be the same things that officials are always "concerned" about - but which never actually happen. This regulation will elevate such groundless "concerns" to a "sufficient cause" for a prohibition.

"Forest Service rules for granting permits had discriminated between "recreational" events such as Boy Scout gatherings and "special events," such as demonstrations, parades 'or any activity involving the expression of views'."

More bulldinky. Because "Recreational" events, such as snowmobiling, and dirt biking, might well tear up the public lands, they would be legitimate targets of regulations aimed at protecting resources. On the other hand, "activity involving the expression of views," which does not harm resources, should be exempt from regulation as an "inalienable right."

"A federal court in Texas, ruling for the Rainbow Family, in 1988 struck down those rules and the manner in which they were enforced."

The Texas court held that the government violated the Administrative Procedure Act in implementing the regulations, and expressed a strong opinion that the regulations were unconstitutional. Now the government is trying again. If they find a judge who believes that the First Amendment is an anachronism which was practically superceded by television, they will succeed.

"The new rules would require permits for all "noncommercial" groups of 25 or more, require officials to say in writing why they denied a permit, and provide for quick appeals."

This can only be "good," if you believe the government is "reasonable." Because the government claims that denying a permit may entail lengthy investigation, the only official requirement is that an application be denied "without unreasonable delay."

"Forest officials could still require that the activities not interfere with other activities and not endanger health, safety or the environment."

Just trust government agents ** who believe, for example, that it is reasonable to restrict the "dissemination of literature" because of potential "damage to resources" ** to be reasonable in determining what endangers health, safety or environment.

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