Flying Dog Brewery has achieved another First Amendment victory in court. Last week, a North Carolina district court ruled in favor of the brewery over the NC Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC), who rejected Flying Dog’s “Freezin’ Season” beer label throughout the state. As reported by CBLDF last September, the bottle art created by Ralph Steadman, which depicts a nude man standing in the snow by a fire, was rejected for being in “bad taste.”
No stranger to First Amendment challenges, Flying Dog sought an injunction to continue selling their beer in the state while they went to court. In addition to the win against the North Carolina ABC, the court ruling also strikes down the regulation that would allow them to block any other breweries for a similar reason.
In their press release Flying Dog described the case as “appointed bureaucrats trying to impose their views and preferences on others.” CEO Jim Caruso added, “The First Amendment is the last defense against authoritarian and arbitrary government, and it must be protected against any and all threats.” A court case about a beer label may seem trivial, but cases like this can set a legal precedent. Every little infraction on our rights is worth the battle.
This case also displays one of the issues affecting the censorship of comics in schools and libraries—the human body. Nudity has become a target of groups attempting to ban books in school. Any sign of nudity brings complaints of pornography despite legal definitions. These complaints have even targeted sex education material.
The visual nature of comics make them more vulnerable than their prose companions. Multiple challenges this past year have targeted graphic novel adaptations of novels that are themselves retained. This case illustrates, once again, that nudity does not equal indecency or “harmful to minors.”
In a time of so much rhetoric, it is encouraging to be reminded our First Amendment rights matter. The Flying Dog case illustrates our right to express ourselves (or our products) without needing to please those in charge.