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Blasphemous Corporate Names

Yesterday's post considered the question of whether the California Secretary of State could refuse to accept offensive corporate names.  Blasphemous corporate names constitute a subset of offensive names because they are offensive to believers.  Blasphemous corporate names are also disparaging names because they denigrate religious beliefs or the deity or deities involved.

UCLA Law School Professor Eugene Volokh pointed out to me that Pennsylvania had adopted a statute providing that no corporate name may include "[w]ords that constitute blasphemy, profane cursing or swearing or that profane the Lord's name." 15 Pa.C.S. § 1303(c)(2)(ii).  However, U.S. District Court Judge Michael M. Baylson found that the statute violated both the Establishment Clause and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Kalman v. Cortes, 723 F. Supp. 2d 766, 806 (E.D. Pa. 2010).  Professor Volokh is a contributor to the eponymously named blog The Volokh Conspiracy.

Although I'm not aware of any California statute that prohibits blasphemy, a few other states have such laws on their books.  For example, Michigan has a statute that provides "Any person who shall wilfully blaspheme the holy name of God, by cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor." MCLS § 750.102.  For an interesting discussion of blasphemy bans in the United States and elsewhere, see Evelyn M. Aswad, Rashad Hussain & M. Arsalan Suleman, Why the United States Cannot Agree to Disagree on Blasphemy, 32 B.U. Int'l L. J. 119 (2014).

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