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Supreme Court 1, Government–Imposed Political Correctness 0 – We Win!
   Thursday, June 22, 2017   at   12:16 PM

One of the most disturbing and concerning trends in public life involves institutional catering to the perpetually aggrieved. It has created a climate where the person who claims to be offended by another's actions becomes all–powerful.

In the marketplace of ideas that in many ways drives this nation, catering to the offended – or second–guessing out of fear of who may be offended – has silenced other viewpoints. And often, the power of government has been used to police thoughts.

This week's unanimous Supreme Court decision in Matal v. Tam may not do much to deter the din of political correctness, But importantly, it makes clear that the government cannot choose sides based on the possibility that a name or an image might offend someone else. And that's good news, especially for the Church of Jesus Christ.

It also gives us hope as we anticipate the court's decision in an important religious–liberties case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, which is expected to be announced next week.

Matal v. Tam focused on a Portland, Ore., band called The Slants. The band's name traded on the Asian heritage of each of the band's members. The band's leader, Simon Tam, discovered the existence of other bands by that name and sought to have the name "The Slants" trademarked.

But the U.S. Patent and Trademark Act declined his request, citing a 1946 law that gave the agency latitude to deny trademark claims of names or images it considered "scandalous, immoral or damaging" (the word "slant" is, in some quarters, considered a derogatory term for people of Asian descent).

In recent years the Obama Administration was more aggressive in enforcing the Lanham Act, most notably denying trademark rights to the Washington Redskins professional football team.

The Supreme Court ruled 8–0 in favor of The Slants (new Justice Neil Gorsuch wasn't on the court when the case was argued in January). But media headlines claiming that the decision means "hate speech is free speech" is woefully misleading, largely because of the subjective nature of "hate speech." The court isn't saying that some names should be considered unacceptable in polite company. It is saying that the government doesn't get to decide what is and isn't unacceptable – big difference.

Be offended by the band name The Slants or the helmet logo of Washington Redskins if you want, but it's not the government's role to protect you from seeing those trademarks in the marketplace.

We can foresee an important benefit to the American church from this decision. Imagine that a chain of restaurants owned by believers (In–n–Out, Chick–fil–a, take your pick) desires to change its name to something overtly Christian. Its new logo: a stylized replica of the empty tomb.

Militant atheists would have a field day, wouldn't they? They'd organize boycotts, picket the new locations and start petitions to force the chain to have a different name.

All those steps would be, and are, legal – but what shouldn't, and now isn't, available to them is petitioning the federal government to deny the restaurant chain a new trademark. That's important, as Jesus's admonition that people will hate us as they hated Him becomes more and more obvious with each passing day.

The Obama Administration's folly was to use the power of government to enforce political correctness, and that is no longer an option for any future administration.

What protects the Church from others also protects others from the Church, of course. So we can be expected to live with anti–Christian bigotry and to be excoriated when we protest it until the Rapture.

The good news from this case is that even the liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes the importance of the First Amendment, which contains our freedom to exercise our faith as we see fit. We are praying that support extends to Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, in a decision that will be announced before the end of June.

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