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Free speech does not come with a government-funded microphone.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to speak freely in a public forum, but it does not entitle them to government assistance in getting their message out.
In other words, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals does not have a constitutional right to string banners between the columns of the state Capitol declaring foie gras a noxious nosh.
Code Pink does not have the right to slather the White House in sangria splash nail polish.
And the Federal Communications Commission is not obligated to carve out air time for everyone who feels inspired to host his own talk show.
Four federal judges have explained this distinction to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Virginia Division, in clear terms. The organization’s leaders should read and heed the court rulings and give up their quest to hang Confederate flags from Lexington’s taxpayer-funded light poles.
A 2011 ordinance allows only the city, state and American flags to be displayed on the poles. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week declared the ordinance constitutional because it does not discriminate among various flag-bearing interest groups based on viewpoint. The ruling upheld the conclusion of U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson in 2012.
Members of the SCV are still free to carry and wave Confederate flags to and fro. They can hang the flags from their front porches and their businesses. They can stitch them onto T shirts and paint them on their car hoods. Members of other groups may do the same.
And the lampposts of Lexington will stick to shedding light on the city, except for the occasional burst of community, state or national pride.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday