The TSA wouldn’t allow a purse with a designs of guns on the side to be publicly viewable as a personal item when clearing the checkpoint at the Columbus, Ohio airport.
..TSA said it would “offend their travelers.” They made her put it in her carry on.
..She stood in the security line, but when she placed her purse on the conveyor belt, they stopped her.
…“We are just going to ask you to keep your purse in your bag where it cannot be seen by other travelers. I know these are not ACTUAL guns, but they may offend some of the other people traveling.”
I am not a lawyer let alone one specializing in free speech law. My initial impression, though, is that the Supreme Court’s Cohen v. California ruling would be clear on this point.
That’s the 1971 case where the Supreme Court overturned a disturbing the peace conviction for a man wearing a jacket that read “[F-] the draft.”
Relately, the 2011 case of Snyder vs. Phelps ruled 8-1 that ‘outrageous’ speech in a public forum on matters of public concern could not be subject to a tort of emotional distress.
It seems to me that offending travelers with items brought through a security checkpoint can’t possibly be grounds for official action. Whether the intent of the woman carrying the purse was actually meant to make a political point, I can certainly imagine carrying an identical handbag to make a point about security. Surely choice of accessory is expressive conduct.
I’d love to hear, though, from those whose knowledge of this area of law is greater than mine.