I received word of this news from Chris Hadden, a beer label designer from Portland Maine:
On Thursday, the Maine Civil Liberties Union Foundation filed a lawsuit claiming government censorship after the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement refused to allow Massachusetts-based Shelton Bros. to sell Santa's Butt and two other beers with label illustrations that the agency deemed "undignified or improper." The MCLU claims the denial is a First Amendment violation restricting freedom of expression. State law requires beer distributors to register labels with the liquor enforcement bureau. Maine State Police Lt. Patrick Fleming said the agency reviews 10,000 to 12,000 applications a year and typically denies about a dozen. Applicants who are denied are given a chance to alter the label and reapply, he said. The Santa's Butt label depicts Santa Claus from behind, sitting on a barrel. It is intended to have a double meaning, Shelton said, in that "butt" is also a term used to identify the 126-gallon barrel on the label.Chris is clearly concerned about the meaning of all this. I asked him for a quote about the court case and this is what he wrote:
If artwork can be banned because it looks "undignified or improper" at what point does subjectivity reach the ranks of the absurd.....What if a label has a guy standing there with his hand in his pocket? What is he doing?...the slope seems slippery one....but we're dealing with a much larger issue, we're creating an environment where beer drinkers could end up with distorted ideas of sex and sexuality and body image. ....we all don't want that to happen to beer drinkers..do we!There is a huge amount of interference regulators impose on the images associated with beer. In New Brunswick, like many jurisdictions, the law prohibits certain themes in beer advertising including:
...an advertisement that, directly or indirectly, depicts family scenes that in any way involve the use of liquor, including any group of adults accompanied by children.Like Santa's butt, this is clearly imposing morality and a twisted morality that fails to grasp the reality that a very large part of Canadian family life includes beer. It is interesting to note that associating beer and misogenistic fantasies about sports and bikini-clad apparently under-aged girls is not so carefully regulated if their popularity as beer advertising themes are any indication.
Time to have the regulators butt out.