By HK Edgerton
Monday March 23 will be an important and historic day at the Supreme Court of the United. Today lawyers for the State of Texas will argue that Americans deserve less freedom, less freedom of speech and the Texas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) will argue that Americans deserve more. Simplistic? Yes. But on target. The fight is over the State of Texas' insistence that the SCV's proposed specialty license plate cannot contain the SCV's logo, the iconic Confederate Battle flag. The Department of Motor Vehicle Board which oversees the specialty license plate approval process held a public hearing in 2011 on the Confederate flag plate and after what can only be termed an orchestrated hate-a-nanny against all confederate symbolism, the Board voted unanimously to disapprove the SCV plate because of the "offensiveness" of the Confederate flag. Rightly believing the DMV Board's denial constituted a violation of their free speech rights, the Texas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans sued in an Austin, Texas federal court to rescind the DMV Bd's ban.
The federal court ruled that the SCV plate, if issued, would constitute "government sponsored speech" and therefore if denied would not violate the SCV's first Amendment rights. The SCV legal team countered that by bowing to the orchestrated outcry, the State DMV Board was picking & choosing what speech was acceptable or unacceptable and therefore discriminated against the SCV, violating their free speech rights. The SCV appealed the court's decision to the 5th Circuit United States Court of Appeal in New Orleans. In July 2014 in a 2-1 decision the Court ruled in favor of the SCV, ordering the State of Texas to give them their plate. But then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, running for Governor and going against the settled law of at least 4 federal circuits, appealed the 5th Circuit decision to the United States Supreme Court - which accepted the case for consideration.
And now the final showdown.
If the court should reverse the 5th Circuit's constitutionally correct decision, all Confederate themed SCV license plates currently available in AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, NC TN, VA, & Md could end up on the chopping block of state sponsored political correctness. Logos of other organizations considered "offensive" by self-appointed thought police could be axed as well.
Ominously besides the Appellant State of Texas, 12 other states: NC, AR, MO, IN, IL, MI, NM, NH, CO, HI, OH, WA, 3 of whom have Confederate flag specialty plates, have filed friend of the Court briefs seeking to reverse the 5th Circuits constitutionally correct decision. Hearteningly, the Texas and North Carolina ACLUs, the Rutherford Institute and other pro-Bill of Rights groups have filed briefs in support of the Texas Division SCV.
Whether you love or hate the Confederate Battle flag, should the SCV lose, a little more freedom, a little more liberty, dies for us all. Thank you Texas Division Sons of Confederate for standing up for the free speech rights of ALL Americans! We ALL have a stake in the outcome!
H.K. Edgerton, a life long civil rights advocate and former Asheville NAACP