Free Speech

ACLU Opposes Ohio Law Criminalizing “False” Political Speech


On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus.

The ACLU has filed a legal brief in this case on behalf of the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, an anti-abortion group that planned to run a 2010 ad against Congressman Steve Driehaus, accusing him of supporting taxpayer funded abortion.

Driehaus responded by filing a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission, arguing that SBA List violated Ohio’s law against making false political statements. SBA List then filed a federal lawsuit, challenging the state law as an unconstitutional restriction on its right to free speech.

After losing his 2010 reelection bid, Driehaus withdrew his complaint. This prompted the lower courts to dismiss the SBA List lawsuit, claiming the group could not longer challenge a law that was no longer being used against it.

SBA List appealed to SCOTUS, arguing that it should still be allowed to challenge the law because it was used to suppress free speech before an election and could be used against other groups in the future.

The ACLU agrees.

This is the question before the high court: Should SBA List be permitted to move forward with its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s law against false political speech?

At the ACLU, we believe people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, regardless of their political persuasion. The government is not the arbiter of truth.

We do not share SBA List’s views on reproductive freedom, but we will continue to defend its right to express those views without interference from the government.