RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 14, 2014—When the NAACP turned on African-American pro-life advocate, Ryan Bomberger and The Radiance Foundation, slamming them with a frivolous trademark lawsuit, many were surprised. It seemed ironic that the nation’s most prominent black civil rights organization would lash out at those working to “illuminate, educate, and motivate,” especially a group that is led by and works closely with people of color. Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a “friend of the court” amicus brief today in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, supporting Bomberger and The Radiance Foundation in the request to have a prejudicial lower court decision reversed.
The NAACP sued Bomberger and Radiance for trademark infringement following the black pro-life leader’s criticism of the NAACP’s abortion advocacy for which he dubbed it the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People.” U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Jackson found in favor of the NAACP, a decision that has drawn much criticism.
Attorney Dana Cody, President and Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, said, “[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The court gave lip service to the First Amendment[/inlinetweet], but completely disregarded its practice in obliterating Ryan’s free speech rights.” She added, “The idea that public criticism of a group for observing the disconnect between their name and their actions can land one in court is outrageous!”
The non-profit law firm compares Bomberger’s denouncement of the NAACP to 19th century newspaper editor and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison’s demonization of the American Colonization Society for its “socially acceptable” support of slavery. The brief draws the conclusion that if the District Court’s rationale were applied to Garrison’s writings against slavery, he might be sued and found to have engaged in trademark infringement for using the American Colonization Society’s pro-slavery language to discredit their promotion of human bondage.
Life Legal Defense Foundation Legal Director, Catherine Short explained that the amicus brief cites Judge Johnson’s grave error in the understanding and application of case law, noting that the District Court:
- made erroneous and contradictory assumptions regarding the NCAAP’s position on abortion
- evaluated the truth or falsity of statements of Radiance’s political speech on those assumptions
- based the trademark infringement finding on that flawed evaluation
- ignored the role of First Amendment principles in adjudicating civil sanctions
The brief was filed on behalf of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, whose core members include the Rev. Walter B. Hoye II, Dr. Day Gardner, and Dr. Alveda C. King.