When we see colleges falling victim to the enemies of free speech and Canadian laws being passed to criminalize people who call a man in a dress a “man in a dress,” we start to worry about the future of free speech in these United States. It used to be that the left, for all of their flaws, prided themselves in being the guardians of free speech and the First Amendment. But that’s gone by the wayside lately. They’ll bash the Trump administration for the president’s criticism of the (failing) New York Times, but it’s clear that more than a few millennials consider free speech to be a tool of oppression used by the white majority to keep gays, women, and minorities languishing in failure. It makes you wonder what kinds of “hate speech” laws they would pass if they didn’t have that pesky Constitution standing in the way.
Thankfully, the Constitution appears to be alive and well. We don’t know what will happen ten, twenty, or thirty years down the line, but for now, the Supreme Court is siding against the snowflakes and in favor of the Founders.
In the case of Simon Tam and his band, The Slants, the Supreme Court ruled that, while many people may agree that the band’s name is offensive to Asians, that didn’t mean the federal government had the right to step in and block Tam’s trademark.
The Patent Office was actually within the bounds of federal law when they denied Tam his trademark. Under the Lanham Act, trademarks may not be registered if they disparage “persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt or disrepute.”
But in issuing the unanimous ruling, the Court essentially declared the entire law unconstitutional.
In his opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said that the disparagement law “offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”
The Patent Office actually had a decent argument, telling the court that because a trademark is actually government speech it shouldn’t be held to the same First Amendment standards. However, the Justices rejected that claim, saying that if the government is allowed to pick and choose which forms of speech to give its “seal of approval,” it could lead to the silencing of unpopular viewpoints in a roundabout way.
This ruling is only the latest of many Supreme Court rulings that have chosen the broadest possible interpretation of the First Amendment over “offended” entities that may wish to block what others say and do. If this trend keeps up, the future of free speech in this country may be brighter than current events would make it seem.