Please Fill Out This Form If Planning to Overthrow the Government. Thank You.

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Oh, paranoid Americans obsessively concerned with security issues. . . . Will your font of genius-level freedom-raping ideas ever run dry?

In South Carolina, anyone engaged in "subversive activities" must now register with the Secretary of State.  Failure to comply with the Subversive Activities Registration Act passed last year and now in full and glorious effect [see below] subjects the non-registering subversive to penalties up to and including a $25,000 fine and/or ten years of imprisonment.

Actually, I take that back.  You don't actually have to be engaged in subversive activities.  You only have to be a member of some group in which at least one other person is at least thinking about subversive activities.  Here's how it works:

  • The law applies to "every member of a subversive organization, or an organization subject to foreign control . . . and every person who advocates, teaches, advises or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means, who resides, transacts any business or attempts to influence political action in this State . . . ."  S.C. Code sec. 23-29-60.
  • A "subversive organization" is any organization "composed of two or more persons [so, organizations of one person are off the hook] which directly or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means."  S.C. Code sec. 23-29-20(1).
  • An organization is "subject to foreign control" if it accepts money "or support of any kind directly or indirectly from, or is affiliated directly or indirectly with," any foreign government, agency, political party or "international political organization," or if any of its policies are "determined by or at the suggestion of, or in collaboration with," any of those foreign things.

This Guy Better Have Filled Out That FormGot it?  So, let's say you are a member of the Libertarian Party, and so is this guy, who showed up at an Obama rally with a gun and a sign saying it's time to "water the tree of liberty [with the blood of tyrants].  Have there been any Libertarian Party policy statements or other comments that could conceivably be read to support this doofus?  Are you sure?  Because if so, libertarians in South Carolina apparently have to register, and provide the Secretary of State "all information which he may request, on the forms and at the times he may prescribe."  S.C. Code sec. 23-29-70.  Failing to do so — not actually trying to overthrow the government, but failing to fill out the form — could get you ten years in jail.  (Same for you, Republicans.)

Also, I think the Democratic Party has probably worked on policies "in collaboration with" a "international political organization" — let's say, global warming and the United Nations? — so that might make it an "organization subject to foreign control" under section 23-29-20(2)(b).  I frankly don't know a lot about ACORN, but somebody would probably argue it "indirectly advocates" taking power by "other unlawful means."  So, you too.

Let's just make this easier — everybody in the United States must give the South Carolina Secretary of State all information which he may request from you at the times he may prescribe.  Okay?  Great.  Then we will be safe.  (Don't forget your $5 filing fee, which will help out the state budget by bringing in $1,500,000,000 this year.)

I guess somebody did see a problem down the road with this, because section 23-29-30 expressly provides that "[n]othing in this chapter shall be construed to authorize, require or establish censorship or to limit in any way or infringe upon freedom of the press or of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and no regulation shall be promulgated hereunder having that effect."  Well, that's a relief — although they left out the right to assemble.  Oops!

Maybe somebody else has pointed this out already, but could it be more ironic that this law was enacted by the legislature of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union and the one that actually opened hostilities?  It's lucky the law is written in the present tense, because otherwise it would be tempting to argue (and, okay, I previously did argue, but am backing down somewhat) that the South Carolina legislature itself could qualify as a "subversive organization" under its own law.  To be on the safe side, South Carolina legislature, you may want to fill out this form of yours and return it to yourself immediately along with your $5 filing fee.

[Correction: it appears that this law is not new, but rather dates back many years, probably to the Red Scare of the 1950s.  I think the rest of the post is otherwise accurate, because the law is still dumb and the state legislature has resisted a number of attempts to repeal it.  More on that later.]

Link: South Carolina Subversive Agent Form