N.J. justices weigh rubber rat's rights

September 23, 2008 2:12:29 PM PDT
A giant inflatable rat is at the center of a free speech case being argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The case pits Local 269 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers against the central New Jersey township of Lawrence.

When the union used the rat in a 2005 protest at a construction site, the township slapped its business agent with a fine, claiming the 10-foot rubber rodent violated an ordinance against balloons and other inflatable signs.

Lawyers for the union argued Tuesday that the law violates their right to free expression and suppresses protest.

The township argues that the union's use of the rat is a form of commercial speech, less deserving of protection than religious or political expression.

The justices did not indicate when they would rule.

Information from: The Star-Ledger, http://www.nj.com/starledger

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