Thursday, February 19, 2009


Oh, hell...

It seems that Pennsylvania doesn’t like blasphemous business names:

A Pennsylvania filmmaker sued the state on Wednesday for turning down his business’s name, I Choose Hell Productions, because state law prohibits names that “constitute blasphemy, profane cursing or swearing or that profane the Lord’s name.”

The filmmaker, George Kalman, contends his free speech rights were violated, as was his right to freedom against the establishment of religion.

One wonders what the state thinks of Guaranteed Overnight Delivery, which has trucks sporting “G.O.D.” in large capital letters. I don’t know whether they operate in Pennsylvania or not.

Mr Kalman’s ACLU lawyer says that “the statute seemed like it was from another era,” and it seems that way to me, too. But it’s far from the only such law. Usually, these bizarrely outdated laws aren’t enforced, and occasionally someone comes along and tries to clean them up and get them off the books.

It seems hard to defend this sort of restriction, considering how lopsided it is: I doubt that anyone would have objected to or denied an application for “I Choose Heaven Productions” or “God Is My Co-Pilot Productions”, though they’re arguably just as blasphemous. And they’re not even being fair about it; look, there’s a restaurant called Hell’s Kitchen in West Hazelton, and a shop called Hell Bent For Leather in Delta.

On the other hand, would we really want a store called, say, “All Kinds of Shit”? A restaurant called “Fucking Delicious!”?

The problem, of course, is that once the state restricts things like that, the restrictions can get out of hand. As they have here. And what’s both good and bad about our system in general is that people are allowed to do things that some other people don’t like.

I wouldn’t want to call my business “I Choose Hell”. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to try to tell someone else that he mayn’t.


lidija said...

Exactly, who gets to choose what's acceptable?!? Maybe the more sensitive ones will object to selling a (very widely available) feminist magazine called "Bitch?" Which actually makes a cultural and political point with that title.

Michelle said...

I can't believe there's an actual law against blasphemy.. that's so.. so.. ok I believe it. It's just stupid in this day and age..

oh and I can think of establishments which your title examples would work for well, but you have to rely on grungry black eyelinered teenagers who like it for the sickness of it :)