The bedrock principle of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the government may not ban speech because the ideas expressed might offend people.
That’s what Justice Sam Alito wrote in a case brought by a band whose members are of Asian decent.
Calling themselves The Slants, the band registered their name at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Then bureaucrats canceled their trademark because some people complained that “slant,” considered a slur against people of Asian descent, was offensive.
The band pursued free-speech protection all the way to the nation’s highest court. The court on Monday ruled in favor of free speech. So-called offensive trademarked names fall under First Amendment protections. From USA Today:
While defending the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protection, the justices did not remove all discretion from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. But they raised the bar for trademark denials so that names deemed to be offensive can survive.
The nation’s capital has been captivated for years with the battle over the Redskins’ name, but the high court had left the football team’s case pending at a federal appeals court in order to hear the challenge brought by band leader Simon Tam and his Portland, Oregon-based foursome.
In a statement following the ruling, Tam said it vindicated First Amendment rights for “all Americans who are fighting against paternal government policies that ultimately lead to viewpoint discrimination.”
The article noted that the government canceled the Washington Redskins’s patent because the name offends liberals.
What kind of speech needs protection other than unpopular and offensive speech?