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No nude nymphs in Alabama

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 4, 2009 - Alabama liquor authorities have banned the sale of a Cycles Gladiator wine because its label shows a nude nymph flying beside a winged bicycle. Alabama law prohibits labels with people posed in an "immoral or sensuous manner," say state authorities.

Eugene Volokh, a noted First Amendment expert, says that the actions of the Alabama liquor authorities are almost certainly unconstitutional.

Commercial speech, such as labels, has less protection than political speech. But that does not mean that state authorities can ban any label they think is sensuous or offensive, he writes. Volokh notes that the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that a city could not prosecute a drive-in theater for showing movies with nudity where the screen was visible from a public street.

Cycles Gladiator wine is produced by the Hahn Family Wine of Soledad, Calif. The label is based on an 1895 advertising poster for Cycles Gladiaor bicycles.

Hahn President Bill Leigon says there haven't been problems in the other 49 states. He said he would not change the label for Alabama. "It's a gorgeous piece of work," he said.