Steve Cooksey Decides to Bite Back!

We all know that Steve Cooksey is a great guy, with good intentions, but sometimes when push comes to shove, even nice guys decide that it’s time to pull out the M61 Vulcan Cannon, strap the ammo box to their back, connect the ammo chain, and

get ready to rumble.

It became common knowledge a short while ago that the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition ceased in the pursuit of their case against Steve, but now Steve Cooksey is about to turn the tables. The hunted will become the hunter. Steve is locked and loaded, and he has the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition in his sights!

Steve Cooksey Decides to Bite Back!

The Institute for Justice has all the details on their website in a post entitled “Caveman Blogger Fights for Free Speech and Internet Freedom - Challenging the Government’s Authority to Censor Ordinary Advice“.

“The Issue in a Nutshell

Can the government throw you in jail for offering advice on the Internet about what food people should buy at the grocery store?

A Vulcan Cannon, courtesy of Wikipedia

That is exactly the claim made by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition.  In December 2011, diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey started a Dear Abby-style advice column on his popular blog ( to answer reader questions.  One month later, the State Board informed Steve that he could not give readers advice on diet, whether for free or for compensation, because doing so constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics.  The State Board also told Steve that his private emails and telephone calls

with readers and friends were illegal, as was his paid life-coaching service.  The State Board went through Steve’s writings with a red pen, indicating what he may and may not say without a government-issued license.

But the First Amendment does not allow the government to ban people from sharing ordinary advice about diet, or scrub the Internet—from blogs to Facebook to Twitter—of speech the government does not like.  North Carolina can no more force Steve to become a licensed dietitian than it could require Dear Abby to become a licensed psychologist.

That is why on May 30, 2012, Steve Cooksey joined the Institute for Justice in filing

a major free speech lawsuit against the State Board in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division.  This lawsuit seeks to answer one of the most important unresolved questions in First Amendment law:  When does the government’s power to license occupations trump free speech?”

“The Legal Challenge: One of the Most Important Unanswered Questions in Free Speech Law

North Carolina’s purported authority to scrub the Internet of one-on-one nutritional advice, whether for free or for compensation, is rooted in a nonbinding 1985 opinion by three U.S. Supreme Court justices in Lowe v. SEC.[]  The opinion in Lowe suggested that the First Amendment simply does not apply to advice from one person to another in contexts where professional expertise is the norm and one person is asking the other to exercise judgment for him or her.  Classic examples would be the regulation of what doctors may say to patients and what lawyers may say to clients.”

“The danger posed by excluding advice from the First Amendment will only grow as more and more occupations become subject to government licensure. As licensing expands—one in three workers now needs a government-issued license; it was one in twenty in the 1950s[]—so too will opportunities for censorship.  The growth of licensing coincides with the growth of the Internet as an unprecedented source of information and advice for ordinary people.  Millions of Americans use blogs, social media, and other online venues to seek and receive advice about topics such as parenting, pregnancy, marriage, and other serious issues.  Under the State Board’s logic, anyone who responds to a mother seeking specific advice about her teething baby is engaged in the unlicensed practice of pediatric medicine.

If ordinary advice is outside the First Amendment and may be censored at the government’s discretion, then a vast amount of valuable speech is at risk. To fight this dangerous trend, IJ will argue that occupational-licensing laws should not be used to shut down dialogue and protect traditional medical hierarchies.  There is no general First Amendment exception for occupational licensing, and paying someone for ordinary advice doesn’t strip that advice of First Amendment protection.”

Wow! It sounds like Steve and his lawyer team have their work cut out for them. If they can win this case, it will definitely set a precedent that will really help the whole Paleo….Primal….ancestral health movement in the future. There are thousands of people like me out there who have a certification or two, but not a dietetics license or registration…which makes them possible targets for these licensing boards, just like Steve was.

I think that Steve and his team are on to something though. I know of plenty of “qualified” people who give out TERRIBLE advice….and tons of people who give out fantastic advice, even though they are not officially “qualified” to do so.

I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this case, and I hope you will too!


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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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