First Amendment, Schmirst Amendment

It appears that my fair city, San Antonio, Texas, is home to an establishment called the Bottom Bracket Social Club. I am unfamiliar with it, but it has intruded into national news. In an exercise of utter tastelessness, one of the owners of the Bottom Bracket Social Club’s owners wrote “f*&^ the police” and “f*&^ the TABC” on a Facebook post not long after the club was cited for a Alcoholic Beverage Code violation.

The violation, even coupled with past ones, was not the sort typically resulting in liquor-license forfeiture. But because of the owner’s crude post, The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission moved to block renewal of the club’s license. The club appealed through an administrative process and prevailed. The administrative law judge observed:

[The State Office of Administrative Hearings] has no jurisdiction to address constitutional claims, and Bottom Bracket has not made one. That said, the ALJ is concerned about the request to deny a permit based on speech that criticizes police. See, e.g., City of Houston v. Hill (1987) (“the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers”); United States v. Poocha (9th Cir. 2001) (yelling “f*&^ you” or “that’s f*&^ed” at police officers during an arrest constituted protected speech).

Indeed. If crudity were grounds for withholding constitutional rights, lots of people would be without them. But I would prefer for San Antonio to make the news in other ways.

For more information, see the discussion on the Volokh Conspiracy.

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