A Rare Legal Victory

Once in a while the State sees fit to throw us serfs a bone. Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that rejecting disparaging trademarks is a violation of the First Amendment:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law that prohibits the government from registering trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment, a decision that could impact the Washington Redskins’ efforts to hang on to its controversial name.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. delivered the opinion for a largely united court. He said the law could not be saved just because it evenhandedly prohibits disparagement of all groups.

“That is viewpoint discrimination in the sense relevant here: Giving offense is a viewpoint,” Alito wrote.

He added that the disparagement clause in the law “offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

The First Amendment is supposed to protect all forms of speech against government censorship. Since the government maintains a monopoly on trademarks it’s refusal to issue trademarks that it has deemed disparaging is a form a censorship.

Free speech is a hot topic at the moment. A lot of people, especially on college campuses, are hellbent on censoring the speech of individuals they disagree with. While there is no problem with private individuals and organizations censoring whatever speech they feel like (something a lot of free speech advocates forget) there is a huge problem when the government gets involved in deciding what forms of speech are acceptable and what forms are not. One of the biggest problems is how the definitions of acceptable and unacceptable change when the party in power changes. Allowing government to censor speech might sound reasonable at first because they’re censoring the speech you disagree with but when the other party comes into power your speech might suddenly be censored as well. The tendency of government to perform legal creep should be enough for everybody to oppose it when it tries to restrict the privileges we often mistakenly refer to as rights.