JUSTICES ACCEPT ‘PROPAGANDA’ CASE : SUPREME COURT TO HEAR ‘PROPAGANDA’ FILMS CASE
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether the government may label as “political propaganda” three Canadian films on acid rain and nuclear war.
The justices said they will hear a Reagan Administration appeal of a ruling that the classification violates free-speech rights protected by the Constitution.
The court is not expected to announce a decision until sometime in 1987.
“No issue of censorship is involved in this case,” Justice Department lawyers argued in the government’s appeal. “No speech has been restrained or prohibited by the government.”
U.S. District Judge Raul A. Ramirez of Sacramento, Calif., barred the government from requiring the propaganda label for the movies, first in 1983 and again last year.
“To characterize a particular expression of political ideas as ‘propaganda’ is to denigrate those ideas,” Ramirez said. He invalidated part of a federal law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, passed by Congress during World War II in an effort to identify foreign propaganda.
The government lawyers said applying the term to the Canadian films was not designed to denigrate them, only to label them as an attempt to influence U.S. policies.
The labeling was challenged by California state Sen. Barry Keene (D-Benicia), who said he wanted to sponsor showings of the films to support his views.
The case touched off an uproar in 1983 when the Justice Department ordered that the films carry the “political propaganda” disclaimer.
Ramirez was assigned nationwide jurisdiction in the dispute. A federal judge’s ruling that declares a federal law unconstitutional may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court.
The three films, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, are “If You Love This Planet,” about the consequences of nuclear war and winner of an Academy Award for short subjects in 1983; “Acid From Heaven” and “Acid Rain: Requiem or Recovery.”