Trade­mark Win for Free Speech

New York Post - - POST OPINION -

Even a di­vided Supreme Court can speak clearly, as in Mon­day’s unan­i­mous 8-0 rul­ing that the First Amend­ment pro­tects of­fen­sive speech.

Tech­ni­cally, the im­pact is more lim­ited, strik­ing down a 70-year-old fed­eral law that banned the regis­tra­tion of “dis­parag­ing” trade­marks. And the jus­tices man­aged to split 4-4 as to why that law is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

But both opin­ions held that an Asian-Amer­i­can band could in­deed trade­mark its (ironic) name, The Slants. It’s “a bedrock First Amend­ment prin­ci­ple,” wrote Jus­tice Sa­muel Al­ito: “Speech may not be banned on the ground that it ex­presses ideas that of­fend.”

Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy got to the same point: “A law that can be di­rected against speech found of­fen­sive to some por­tion of the pub­lic can be turned against mi­nor­ity and dis­sent­ing views to the detri­ment of all. The First Amend­ment does not en­trust that power to the govern­ment’s benev­o­lence.”

This has far-reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions, the least of which is that the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins will now surely get their trade­mark back.

Far more im­por­tant, it’s a huge brush­back to all ef­forts to ban pub­lic “hate speech”: The high court has made it crys­tal clear that it just doesn’t mat­ter how hurt­ful you find cer­tain words to be, the govern­ment and all its agents can’t dis­crim­i­nate against them.

Amer­i­cans are left to com­bat hate just as they al­ways have, with boy­cotts, protests and (gasp) counter-ar­gu­ments.

And the would-be cen­sors can’t even blame Pres­i­dent Trump: Jus­tice Neil Gor­such joined the court too late to join in stomp­ing on this non­sense.

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