Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Amicus Says Trademark Case Impacts Religious Speech

Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Lee v. Tam (SCOTUSblog case page).  The case involves a free speech challenge to the Lanham Act which allows the government to deny trademark registration to a mark "which may disparage * * * persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs,
or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute." On Monday the Becket Fund filed an amicus brief in the case focusing on the impact of the disparagement clause on religious speech. The brief argued in part:
Disagreements about deeply important issues such as religion can often be experienced as disparaging.... [I]t would be wrong for the government to punish speech simply because it wants to protect some religious “institutions” and “beliefs” from criticism.
In fact, to its credit, the United States has for many decades led the fight to convince other countries and international bodies to allow disparaging speech, and to resist using the law to punish those who disparage religion or commit blasphemy.