It seems to me like the 1st Amendment is pretty cut and dry: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (emphasis mine)
But apparently, that’s not the case. You know, the proverbial “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater” etc.
Steve Cooksey is a man who was hospitalized with diabetes in February 2009. He decided he didn’t want to end up like his grandmother, who died of the disease, and started following the Paleo diet. This is a low carb, high protein diet, also referred to as the “caveman” or “hunter-gatherer” diet. The diet, he said, made him drug- and insulin-free within 30 days. By May of that year, he had lost 45 pounds and decided to start a blog about his success.
And that, apparently, is where his 1st Amendment rights ended.
He went against the “carbs are just fine” status quo, and the government is doing what government does best: applying force.
The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition decided in January that his website, Diabetes-Warrior.net, violates state law. Mr. Cooksey must either rewrite 3 years of articles, or take the website down entirely. Otherwise, he will be sued by the board. And if he loses the lawsuit, he could face up to 120 days in jail. The board cites the following:
Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it a misdemeanor to “practice dietetics or nutrition” without a license. According to the law, “practicing” nutrition includes “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” and “providing nutrition counseling.”
The board’s director says that Mr. Cooksey does indeed have a 1st Amendment right to blog about his diet, but he can’t encourage others to adopt it unless the state has certified him as a dietitian or nutritionist.
But is he providing counseling? He has a disclaimer on his website:
1) I am not a doctor, dietitian nor nutritionist. I have ZERO medical training and NO formal nutritional training. However, I am a diabetic who follows his own “diabetic diet” (backed by scientific research) and has normal Blood Glucose while taking -0- drugs and -0- insulin.
2) Personal advice will not be given on this site. This site is ONLY intended for educational purposes ONLY. Providing people with the information on a “real” diabetes diet is my goal. Creating other Diabetes Warriors…is my desire!
3) Please consult your physician regarding any health guidelines seen in this site. IF YOUR doctor does NOT support information provided on this site, I urge you to find a “low carb friendly” doctor as soon as possible.
Please contact me if you are unable to locate one. Click HERE
What I Have Done
1) I have learned from top PhDs, MDs and Fitness experts … through their writings and opinions regarding legitimate mainstream medical studies.
2) I have confirmed many of their findings through my own personal experiences. I am a former obese diabetic who was taking 4 drugs and 4 insulin shots per day!… now… I’ve lost 75 lbs and I am DRUG AND INSULIN FREE!!! All this with normal Blood Sugar….not normal for diabetics….NORMAL Blood Sugar for non-diabetics.
3) We are NOT alone! More and more are learning this information and gaining improved health and welness from it.
It seems to me that he is saying “Look, this worked for me, and maybe it can work for you too, so I’m sharing some information with you.”
Just for curiosity’s sake, I went searching for how to become licensed in North Carolina. I found the application for a category B “provisional” license, and it includes the following qualifiers:
To apply for a Category B license you must:
1. Hold a baccalaureate or higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university with major course of study in human nutrition, foods and nutrition, dietetics, community nutrition or public health nutrition.
2. Completed a planned, continuous supervised practice program approved or accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, or equivalent as determined by the NCBDN.
3. Provide evidence of making application to take the CDR exam by providing a copy of your “Authorization to Test” letter.
4. Work under the supervision of a Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist in the state of North Carolina, and provide proof thereof (see form B2).
5. Pay all fees associated with licensure. The fee schedule for Category B: Provisional Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist is $85.00. This fee includes non-refundable Application Fee of $50.00 and Issuance Fee of $35.00.
a. If application is approved all fees are non-refundable.
b. Please Note: If the PLDN completes the CDR examination within 6 months of licensing then there will only be an Issuance Fee of $90.00 (the balance of the issuance fee to convert from Category B to Category A), which is to be paid upon application to Category A.
6. Have last page of application notarized verifying your current status with CDR.
The provisional license will be granted for a period of one year. Failure to comply with any requirement throughout the duration of the year will result in your provisional license being revoked.
Incomplete applications will not be accepted. Applications will not be processed until all verifications forms, fees and proof of registration for the CDR exam are provided.
Everything started going downhill for Mr. Cooksey when he attended a nutrition seminar at a church in Charlotte. The director of diabetes services of a local hospital was the speaker, and according to Mr. Cooksey:
“She was giving all the wrong information, just like everyone always does — carbs are OK to eat, we must eat carbs to live, promoting low-fat, etc.,” Cooksey said. “So I spoke up.”
After the meeting was over he handed out a couple of business cards which directed people to his website. Within days he got the call from the director of the board of nutrition saying he couldn’t give out nutritional information without a license. She also informed him that his website was under investigation and gave him some suggestions on how to bring it into compliance.
Charla Burill, the board’s director, spoke with the Carolina Journal:
It’s not necessarily against the law to give your sister or your friend nutritional advice, she said. And it’s not necessarily against the law to use a blog to tell people what they should eat.
Where it crosses the line, Burill said, is when a blogger “advertises himself as an expert” and “takes information from someone such that he’s performing some sort of assessment and then giving it back with some sort of plan or diet.”
Remember that Mr. Cooksey never claimed to be an expert (recall his disclaimer above). And wanting to help others? Don’t bother unless the State deems you a “qualified expert.”
What this boils down to is the State doesn’t like people telling other people that their “experts” are wrong. Mr. Cooksey had success, and tried to share that with others. “The man” wants to shut him down for that.
I’m not diabetic, but I may consider trying this diet myself, after looking into it of course.
I suppose the lesson we all need to take from this is be careful what you blog about, it might just end up biting you in the ass. As Gary North notes:
Bloggers should understand this. They can offer self-testimony. They can link to other articles that report on health. But if they promote the information as recommendations, they are at risk. The establishment has passed laws against this.
What’s your take on this?