Supreme Court Unanimous in 'Ministry of Truth' Case

The Supreme Court this week ruled unanimously in favor of a pro-life organization seeking to challenge an Ohio law prohibiting “false statements” during political campaigns.  Calling up Orwellian imagery from the novel 1984, the Susan B. Anthony List counsel in this case had declared, “Our constitutional claim here is the ministry of truth has no ability to judge our political speech as falsity.” 

SBA List’s case originated after then-Congressman Steve Driehaus (D-OH) filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission in 2010 that the pro-life group was lying about his record when it was preparing billboard ads to highlight his vote in support of the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) as one authorizing use of taxpayer funds for abortion. A panel of the commission found “probable cause” of a false statement and referred the complaint to the full commission. However, the proceeding ended after Rep. Driehaus lost his election and dropped the complaint.

During oral argument, the Supreme Court Justices seemed very interested in the underlying free speech constitutional issues of this case. However, the unanimous opinion of the Court stuck to the question before it, which was one of standing. SBA List may now continue its movement toward challenging the substance of the Ohio law.

“Today’s decision by the court is a step toward victory for the freedom of speech and the broad coalition of groups who have supported SBA List throughout this case. The truth or falsity of political speech should be judged by voters, not government bureaucrats,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 20, 2014