What is the Law of Seditious Libel in Kansas and What are the Punishments for it?
Before understanding what the law on seditious libel is in Kansas as well as the punishments for it are, it’s necessary to have a clear understanding of what sedition as well as seditious libel is.
What is Sedition?
Sedition can be defined as conduct which sways towards insurrection against the established order. Conduct can be through speech or through an organization. In most cases, the established order refers to the government of a nation. In Kansas’s case, the established order would be the government of the United States of America.
Sedition is usually not looked at as a subversive act. In fact, overt acts which are prosecutable differ from one government’s jurisdiction to another government’s jurisdiction. Sedition can also refer to supporting a declared enemy of the state during times of war. Sedition is a grey area in America because the right to free speech is protected by the First Amendment in the Constitution of the United States.
However, the actual conspiring to disrupt the operation of the United State’s government which goes beyond the expression of opinion or protesting government policy is looked at as sedition and not as free speech.
What is Seditious Libel?
Libel refers to any or all material published which injures the reputation of another person. Seditious libel refers to material which supports an enemy of the state during wartime or material which promotes the overthrow of the established government.
Isn’t Seditious Libel the same as Slander?
As already mentioned, libel refers to material which damages the reputation of another person. However, slander refers to the speaking of a base as well as defamatory words which tend to the prejudice of another individual with regards to his/her office, reputation, business, trade or way of livelihood. Defamation and slander aren’t the same things.
What are the Punishments for Seditious Libel in Kansas?
Seditious libel is treated as a federal crime in the United States. The punishments for seditious libel are twenty years or less of imprisonment and a fine of $10,000 or less. However, an amendment was made which increased the fine to $20,000 or less.
History of Seditious Libel in the United States
The first English colonists brought the concept of seditious libel with their arrival to North America. English law made it a crime to publish as well as make statements which promote dissatisfaction with the government. People who argued that their statements were the truth as a defense were often slapped with worse charges. At the time, English law did not recognize truth as a valid defense. In fact, English law followed a view which stated, “the greater the truth, the greater the libel”.
The colonists of North America didn’t agree with the English’s interpretation of seditious libel. Their opportunities for freedom as well as independence in America weren’t consistent with these tyrannical laws. Both views were brought before legal systems with the trial of John Peter Zenger in 1735.
Seditious Libel in the United States Today
While seditious libel is an offense in the United States, offenders aren’t usually prosecuted unless the matter is a serious one.
World War II saw many seditionists in the United States. This prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to pressure Francis Biddle to prosecute seditionists. However, Biddle didn’t prosecute any seditionists as he was of the opinion that it would be an unwise move. Similarly, anti-war activists of today aren’t prosecuted for seditious speech.
While seditious libel isn’t punished strictly in the United States today, it would be unwise to engage in such practices as the consequences have the potential to be severe.