In Freedom of Speech, Laws & Legal Challenges, Videos
Students riot at University of California, Berkeley in April 2017, preventing Ann Coulter from speaking. (Image: AP)
In a rare unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that having one’s feelings hurt is not sufficient cause to silence free speech.
Matal v. Tam: A victory for free speech
The case before the Supreme Court arose when the U.S. Trademark office refused to grant a trademark for an asian band called “The Slants” who wished to trademark their name, because the office deemed the phrase to be offensive. The Trademark office cited the “disparagement clause” of the 1946 Lanham Act that specifies what types of requests can be refused. Under that clause, phrases “which may disparage” may be refused a trademark. The band then brought the case before the Court.
In a rare unanimous ruling, the Court ruled that the “disparagement clause” of the Act must now be eliminated. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court, pointed out how the disparagement clause infringed First Amendment rights:
“We now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend”.
Alito also noted the abuses the government might cause through the use of this clause:
“If private speech could be passed off as government speech by simply affixing a government seal of approval, government could silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints. For this reason, we must exercise great caution before extending our government-speech precedents.”
A warning to those who attempt to silence free speech they find offensive
“The danger of viewpoint discrimination,”Kennedy wrote, is that it “attemp[s] to remove certain ideas or perspectives from a broader debate. That danger is all the greater if the ideas or perspectives are ones a particular audience might think offensive.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, in an separate opinion endorsed by the three most liberal justices, sent a clear warning to the those seeking to silence opinions they find offensive. “The danger of viewpoint discrimination,” he wrote, is that it “attemp[s] to remove certain ideas or perspectives from a broader debate. That danger is all the greater if the ideas or perspectives are ones a particular audience might think offensive.”
Free speech under attack on colleges across the nation
Free speech on college campuses is under attack throughout the nation, primarily due to liberal attempts to silence conservative speech they find offensive.
In one noted example, University of California – Fresno College Professor Gregory Thatcher was caught on video in May erasing chalked pro-life messages from a campus sidewalk, even though the student authors had obtained permission for their activity and for the message content.
Thatcher, who was offended, instructed his own class students to destroy the messages. When confronted by the authors, he himself began erasing the messages while demanding the student authors restrict their own activities to a “free speech zone” (which did not exist at the campus). He then famously asserted, “college campuses are not free speech areas”.
Thatcher is now being sued for his actions.
Similar attacks on free speech by overly-sensitive liberal snowflake students could fill an editorial page. From Ann Coulter’s dis-invitation to speak at UC Berkeley, to Oregon-based Linfield College’s decision dis-invitation of professor Jordan Peterson (simply for his refusal to use gender neutral pronouns), colleges and universities across North America have a problem with free speech when it offends liberal sensitivities.
Attacks on free speech by offended liberals extend beyond the college campus. At a free speech rally held in Portland, 14 “antifa” thugs were arrested while attempting to do precisely what they claimed to oppose; using force to silence their opposition’s free speech.
A victory for free speech
Monday’s Supreme Court ruling is nothing less than a victory for free speech. The ruling adds strength to those fighting against the “P[olitically] C[orrect] Police”, such as UC Fresno’s Professor Thatcher, who would silence the speech of those with whom they disagree.
The ruling is also a sobering wake-up call for snowflake liberals. The supreme court’s ruling suggests liberals may need to learn to be more tolerant of views they find offensive… as conservatives have had to do for the past 8 years.
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Keywords: Free Speech Rally, Matal v. Tam, Oregon, Portland, Supreme Court, University of California.