Thursday, May 21, 2015

4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sides with the pro-life group against NAACP

In January 2013, Radiance Co-Founder Ryan Bomberger, who is black, published an article on calling the NAACP the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People.” Though the NAACP doesn’t hold an official position on abortion, Bomberger used the parody to highlight the organization’s support for pro-abortion groups.

Ryan Bomberger
The same month, the NAACP sent a letter to Bomberger and LifeNews demanding they remove the parody in seven days. Bomberger, represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed for declaratory judgment, and the NAACP filed a trademark infringement counter suit.

“The Radiance Foundation merely expressed its opinion of the NAACP’s abortion activism in an article,” said ADF-affiliated attorney Charles M. Allen. “The NAACP cannot use trademark law to shield itself from criticism by denying others the right to use its name when they are expressing their opinions.”

Last year, district court Judge Raymond Jackson sided with the NAACP, ruling Bomberger’s parody created confusion about the organization’s name. He ruled Radiance “may not present such critiques in a manner that is likely to confuse the public regarding whether certain trademarks espousing a pro-abortion viewpoint are authorized or sponsored by the NAACP.”

But that ruling violated First Amendment rights, according to ADF senior counsel Steven H. Aden. After Bomberger and LifeNews posted the article, people complained to the NAACP about its abortion stance, but no one expressed confusion, according to a brief filed with the 4th Circuit.

“The First Amendment protects the freedom of all organizations, regardless of their political or religious views, to comment on the views of others,” Aden said. “The 4th Circuit was right to reverse the district court’s flawed decision which discriminated against free speech.”

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