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Amicus Brief: Iancu v. Brunetti

Pushing back against a law that allows the government to censor speech it finds distasteful or immoral, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a federal statute that allows the government to reject trademark applications for “scandalous” brand names that some might find offensive. In this particular case, the government rejected as immoral or scandalous a trademark application for streetwear brand “FUCT” (an acronym for “FRIENDS U CAN’T TRUST”) that serves as artist Erik Brunetti’s commentary on the need to challenge government authority and societal assumptions. In an amicus brief filed with the Court in Iancu v. Brunetti, Rutherford Institute attorneys contend that the statute violates the most fundamental First Amendment guarantees by investing the government with the power to act as an arbiter of good taste and censor speech it finds offensive or with which it disagrees.

“Whatever the rationale for criminalizing speech, the end result remains the same: outright censorship and the creation of a class system that renders speech perceived as politically incorrect, hateful or offensive as inferior and less entitled to the full protection of the law,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Ultimately, the First Amendment assures every individual the right to speak truth to power using whatever nonviolent means are at their disposal. As comedian Lenny Bruce—a lifelong champion of free speech—used to remark, ‘If you can’t say ‘F@#$’ you can’t say, ‘F@#$ the government.’”

Affiliate attorneys Megan L. Brown, Scott B. Wilkens, Christopher J. Kelly, and Wesley E. Weeks of Wiley Rein LLP assisted The Rutherford Institute in advancing the arguments in the Brunetti brief.


March 28, 2019 • Anti-Government Speech Is Still Protected Speech: Rutherford Institute Challenges Law Allowing Government to Censor Speech It Finds Distasteful


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