Free beer was being served as the audience gathered yesterday for a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to hear Jim Caruso (CEO of Flying Dog Brewery), Alan Gura (a DC-based constitutional law litigator), and Erin Weston (senior Director of Communications for Flying Dog). The three were there to discuss their First Amendment victory in Flying Dog Brewery v. Michigan Control Commission (6th Cir., 2015). More importantly, they were there to formally launch a new free-speech initiative. Ms. Weston will oversee the initiative.
The “First Amendment Society” is a non-profit initiative started by Flying Dog. The seed money for the campaign came from the damages award the brewery received from its victory in the Sixth Circuit.
One component of the initiative will be a First Amendment scholarship program done in conjunction with the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, of which Lucy Dalglish (former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press) is dean. Dalglish was present at yesterday’s press conference
Another component of the initiative will involve a a partnership with a public library. Staring next week, the Frederick County Public Library will host a series of lectures focusing on banned books and the First Amendment. The first three of those events will be held at 6:00 p.m. on the following dates:
- June 8: Garrett Epps will discuss Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
- July 13: Michelle Markey Butler will discuss Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- August 10: Ronald Collins, “The Poem that Howled Against Censorship: The Story of the Attempt to Ban a Book of Poems”
Moved to action by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s attempt to ban the company’s “Raging Bitch” beer from being sold within the state, Jim Caruso tagged the experience as “an outrageous violation of our First Amendment rights.” It was that experience that prompted him to launch the First Amendment Society. In the course of the press conference, Caruso was emphatic that “this is not a marketing tactic.” Alan Gura, the lawyer who successfully argued the case, echoed that point as he discussed the merits of the case and why it was important to litigate it.
Some of those present at the press conference were Robert Corn-Revere, Walter Olson, Nico Perrino, Ilya Shapiro, and Bryan Thomas Hissing, Community Services Coordinator for the Frederick County Public Library
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