First Amendment Rights Extended to Starbucks

This article was originally published on Humorality, on November 30, 2009.

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In a six-three ruling that is sure to have repercussions on America’s legal and food services establishments for decades to come, the United States Supreme Court today afforded Starbucks the First Amendment rights already granted to the nation’s citizens. The majority decision also declared that a Grande Java Chip Frappuccino with extra whipped cream makes an afternoon spent with lawyers go a lot better.

Howard Schultz, the chairman and CEO of the Starbucks chain, was pleased with the pronouncement. “We are so excited by this decision, really excite, super excited, amazingly happy, greatly pleased, really, really jazzed about this decision,” said a jumpy Schultz, sipping on his third Vente triple-shot espresso. “Free coffees for everyone!” Police were on hand to quell any caffeine-related incidents.

The core issue in the case was whether Starbucks stores could be guaranteed the right to peacefully assemble. Locations had been gathering for years on popular intersections, but planning officials in metropolitan areas such as New York City and Kalamazoo, Michigan applied zoning laws to break up such meetings. Today’s announcement from the bench will allow all of the chain’s 16,000-plus stores to congregate on a single street corner if desired, as long as they have an American flag displayed at the gathering.

The ruling also extends to other coffee chains. Tully’s Coffee responded immediately to the decision by establishing The Church of Tully’s under the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clauses. “The services will be non-denominational and hazelnut in flavor,” said Tully’s founder and president Tom O’Keefe. “I’m sure that most worshipers will appreciate the chance to upgrade the body and blood of Christ with a selection of fine pastries and hand-crafted coffees. Holy decaf is available upon request.”

Coffee retailers were also granted freedom-of-speech rights, will be allowed to write and publish their own press stories, and can now petition the government for redress of grievances, although none of the nine justices were able to explain this last expression. In another case still pending before the court, lawyers will argue whether the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s new “chicken legs and arms” value meal.

Some groups, including Citizens for the Rights of Actual People, expressed disappointment with the ruling. “Coffee stores are not persons, and should not receive the benefit of Constitutional protections,” said the group in a press release. “This decision makes a mockery of the progress minority groups such as African-Americans have made in establishing their God-given rights.”

“Looks like someone didn’t get their morning cup of joe,” replied Janice Hennessey, the official barista of the Supreme Court justices.

Dave Freudenthal, governor of Wyoming, was also disturbed by the news. “This decision unfairly benefits costal states with large metropolitan centers capable of supporting a coffee shop industry,” said the governor at an afternoon press conference. The Senate is currently debating a bill that would tie statehood status to the presence of Starbucks retail locations. If passed, Washington State would assume management of the former Wyoming.

Yet in most communities across America, the news was greeted with spontaneous coffee parties and shouts of “I think I’ll have whole milk today.” And officials at the Texas office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement are expecting nearly 30,000 people to attend next Tuesday’s American citizenship ceremony for Juan Valdez.

Buoyed by today’s win, coffee-advocacy groups are already planning to challenge voting laws that restrict the enfranchisement of stores such as Seattle’s Best Coffee. But today’s decision is good enough for people like Mark Voorhees. “I’ve been trying to get a Starbucks location in my home office for years, but the doofuses at the zoning commission kept rejecting my requests. Looks like Sonia Sotomayor was a good choice after all. Take that, City Hall!”

Tim Patrick

Tim Patrick is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and life in Japan. Find his latest books at

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