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Conclusion—The Roberts Court: In the Business ofFree Speech

So, what can we conclude about the Roberts Court, its First Amendment rulings, and the business world. It is true that some of the significant cases discussed in the preceding text involved business interests or could be utilized by business interests. But the same could be true of landmark cases like New York Times Co. v. Sullivan138 and Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. New York State Crime Victims Board.139 Some may say well, yes, but those cases are different because they involve newspapers and book publishers and entertainment industries, which are “First Amendment businesses.” But the lesson of the Roberts Court in Citizens United is that there is no such thing as a special, separate, privileged “First Amendment business.” Now, everyone and every group that speaks and writes and communicates to the public is in the First Amendment business. These various Roberts Court cases were about free speech, not business rights, even though business and corporate interests may benefit from some of them. Bizarre demonstrators, minister and teach church doctrine, free from employment discrimination claims. The Court ruled that the attempted EEOC government intervention violated both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.

  • 136 130 S. Ct. 2705 (2010).
  • 137 Joel M. Gora, The First Amendment. . . United, supra, note 67 at 985-87.
  • 138 376 U.S. 254 (1964).
  • 139 502 U.S. 105 (1991).

deluded liars, weird fetishists, anti-AIDS advocacy groups—no Exxons or GE’s in sight. To be sure, one case involved a major branch of the entertainment industry and another involved elements of the pharmaceutical industry, and profits will flow from the Court’s ruling in those cases. But, more importantly, the Court’s agenda was to make sure that ideas and information would flow to a willing public and not be censored by the government. That was the overarching concern. And the decisions were sweeping, almost heroic affirmations of the primacy of individual and organizational speech and the deep distrust of government regulation of that speech. Just like the decision in Citizens United—not a corporate speech case but a free speech case.

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