Sevier Pushes for Censorship Legislation to Protect Children
Chris Sevier tried to marry his laptop in a legal fight against same-sex marriage, and last month, a federal judge in Utah threw out Sevier’s lawsuit over the matter. Now, the same man is back in the limelight promoting nationwide legislation which would require a filter to block pornography and human trafficking websites. The block would be lifted if a computer user pays $20.
The measure is being referred to as the “Elizabeth Smart Law,” named after the girl who was kidnapped from her Utah home at the age of fourteen in 2002. But Smart would prefer not to be involved altogether and has sent a letter demanding her name be removed from anything related to Sevier’s plan.
A spokesperson for Smart confirmed she has tried to remove herself from being associated at all. “Elizabeth is not connected with this organization,” Chris Thomas insisted. “There was absolutely no authorization to use her name.” She had a lawyer send a cease-and-desist letter to stop using her name “in any way,” Thomas added.
Sevier’s proposed legislation has also drawn criticism from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which demanded last year that Sevier stop incorrectly alleging the organization has supported his work. The American Civil Liberties Union stated further that the idea is unconstitutional because it would install a censorship filter onto everyone’s computer, filtering out legal content as well.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposes the idea, has tracked nearly a dozen bills that are proposing a similar block across eighteen state legislatures this year – none have passed to date. Sevier and his supporters claim the legislation would protect children and others by making pornography and sites allowing human trafficking harder to access.
Sevier said that he chose Smart’s name because she has spoken about the negative effects of pornography, including that pornography “made my living hell worse.” He said the name “Elizabeth Smart Law” was an “offhand name” that had been given to his efforts by lawmakers. The bill has also been promoted as the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act.
“Obviously, we’re not trying to hurt Elizabeth Smart, for god’s sake,” Sevier said. “We don’t really care what it’s called. We just want it to pass. And we’re going to see to it that it passes, and the law is on our side.”
In Rhode Island, Democratic Senator Frank Ciccone said he sponsored the bill because children “have easy access to materials that no child should be viewing, such as pornography and other highly offensive or disturbing material.” He stated further that his intent was to require that such filters be made available to parents and called the bill a “work-in-progress.”
Well-known as a controversial figure, Sevier has also been in trouble with the law for other public pursuits in the past. He was sentenced to probation after being found guilty in 2014 of harassment threats against country singer John Rich. He maintains he didn’t do anything wrong, and that the case came after a variety of lawsuits between the two men.