Business name denied incorporation by state because it's 'blasphemous'
Court/Assoc.: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Attorneys/Firms: Thomas Lee, Elizabeth H. Kimmelman, Leora Eisenstadt, & Matthew Bleich (Dechert LLP); Mary Catherine Roper (ACLU of Pennsylvania); Seth Kreimer (University of Pennsylvania Law School)
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed suit on February 18, 2009, on behalf of George Kalman, a filmmaker who was prevented from incorporating his business under the name of his choice because it violates a Pennsylvania statute that prohibits corporate names containing "words that constitute blasphemy...or that profane the Lord's name."
Kalman, a Downingtown resident, is the founder and CEO of a film production company called "I Choose Hell Productions." In late 2007, Kalman applied to the Pennsylvania Department of State Corporation Bureau for a certificate of organization for his business. His application was rejected because the "entity name may not contain words that constitute blasphemy, profane cursing or swearing or that profane the Lord's name," a direct quote from a Pennsylvania statute.
The statute is unconstitutional because the commonwealth relies on a religious standard to determine if a business name is acceptable or not. It also violates Kalman's free speech rights by allowing anonymous government officials to refuse business names that offend them.
Kalman says he chose the name of his production company because he believes it expresses his personal philosophy that it is better to struggle through difficult times in life than to commit suicide, even if life is "hell."
The specific Pennsylvania statue in question is § 1303(c)(2)(ii) of Title 15 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.
On June 30, 2010, the courtstruck down thestatute as unconstitutional.