There is an interesting case that in Pennsylvania where an unnamed teen is charged with “desecration” of a statue of Jesus in front of the Love in the Name of Christ, a Christian organization in Everett, Pennsylvania. The charge against the 14-year-old raises significant first amendment questions in the alleged desecration of a venerated object. He could be (unlikely) jailed for two jails for insulting a religious statue, something that contravenes free speech and establishment principles as well as vagueness issues. Warning: some viewers may find the picture below disturbing.
“Desecration” is defined in Pennsylvania as “Defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise, physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action.” What on Earth does “physically mistreating” mean with a statue? The addition of “otherwise” to “defacing, damaging, polluting” adds another element of ambiguity and vagueness.
That fact that this was a religious statue seems to be motivating the charge. It seems unlikely that the teen would have been charged in the same way with a frog or dog statue. None of these excuses his actions, of course. His conduct was obnoxious and disgraceful. Unfortunately, those terms could be in the dictionary under “teenager.”
While there will be pressure to get the teen to plead out, the law appears ripe for an either as applied or facial challenge.
Kudos: Michael Blott