Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

Halloween costumes and the First Amendment

Every November, post-Halloween news stories begin to circulate the media and offensive Halloween costumes are a consistent theme of these reports. This year, we’ve seen such costumes as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, the World Trade Centers, and James Holmes, the Aurora, CO. mass shooter. While the costume ideas are undoubtedly offensive, they’ve come under scrutiny as a First Amendment issues.
This Halloween, 22-year-old Alicia Lynch arrived to work dressed as a Boston Marathon runner, covered in bandages, faux blood, and a participant banner pinned to her athletic clothes. Lynch was fired from her job after posting photos to her social media accounts. This particular example is not a First Amendment violation because Lynch was at work. However, when officials at the University of Colorado at Boulder sent a letter to the general student population urging individuals not to portray cultures, ethnicities and socio-economic groups, it borders on violating freedom of expression. While school officials are probably just trying to prevent a public relations disaster, offensive costumes, though in bad taste, are protected.

To read more about the Halloween letter to University of Colorado at Boulder students, click here

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