North Carolina prosecutes a blogger for talking about his cave man, paleo diet:
Adam Liptak, Blogger Giving Advice Resists State’s: Get a License
Steve Cooksey eats what he calls a cave man diet — lots of meat and greens, no bread or pasta. He says it has helped him conquer life-threatening diabetes.
But when he wrote about his experiences and offered advice on his Web site, officials in North Carolina said he was breaking the law by “providing nutrition care services without a license.”
Charla M. Burill, the executive director of the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition, called Mr. Cooksey in January to tell him so. The conversation was by all accounts civil, and Ms. Burill had a state law on her side.
About a week after they talked, Ms. Burill sent Mr. Cooksey pages from his site liberally annotated in red ink. She said that “writing a blog on your beliefs” was fine. But Mr. Cooksey’s Dear Abby-style advice column was unlawful. So was a paid life-coaching service.
“You are no longer just providing information when you do this,” she wrote of the column and the service. “You are assessing and counseling, both of which require a license.”
Indeed, a North Carolina law says that “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” without a license is a crime. Many other states license nutritionists and dietitians, but the North Carolina law seems to be among the stricter ones.
In her markup of Mr. Cooksey’s site, Ms. Burill underlined examples of unlawful advice, including this one: “I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can.”
Mr. Cooksey reluctantly made the requested changes. Then he filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Charlotte, N.C., saying his First Amendment rights had been violated.
“Cooksey’s advice,” his lawyers wrote, “ultimately amounts to recommendations about what to buy at the grocery store — more steaks and avocados and less pasta, for example.”
“The First Amendment simply does not allow North Carolina to criminalize something as commonplace as advice about diet,” they added.
What about Dear Abby? Does she have to get a psychology license?