Monday, March 30, 2015

Supreme Court considers Texas license plate case that could threaten free speech on campus

In Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, due for oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court Monday, the respondent will argue that a private organization should be able to have a specialty license plate with the Confederate battle flag on it. On the other side, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board contends that license plates constitute government speech because the state government controls their production. The state, therefore, may choose not to approve a Confederate flag, which many Texans find offensive, as part of a specialty license plate design.

In spite of the emotional appeal of banning offensive symbols, it is important to consider the wider, unintended consequences of a decision allowing Texas to censor the image of the Confederate flag, however repugnant some may find it. Specifically, discourse on public colleges and universities is likely to suffer if the justices decide that specialty license plates are a form of government speech and that Texas may, therefore, censor license plate messages with which it does not want to associate.

The connection between specialty license plates and college campuses may not be readily apparent, but every day colleges and universities creatively abuse their authority over student and faculty activities to stifle speech they do not like. And restrictions on intellectual discourse on campus harm everyone. As the Supreme Court has often affirmed, “Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.”



Anonymous said...

Since license plates are visible to everyone, they should not be offensive. It is not necessary for free speech to go that far.

Dean said...

Anon12:41 - so if I am offended by a Victoria's Secret billboard it should be taken down? Or if the Salvation Army logo offends me it should be changed? Perhaps hay pride stickers offend me. Don't allow them?

Who decides what will be prohibited? That's the real problem with censorshio.

Dean said...

nuts. That should be gay pride not a pride.

Anonymous said...

Freedom of speech was originally intended to protect those who would criticize government; it had been an offense punishable by death under the King.
It was not intended to protect vulgarity, obscenity, pornography, and hate speech.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:29 - you clearly do not support the First Amendment. Perhaps this is not the site for you.
It is ONLY offensive speech that needs protection. Inoffensive speech doesn't require any special protections - it is already safe by virtual of its banality. That goes for speech critical of government as much as other forms of expression.

Anonymous said...

Free speech is censored on campuses by academics who brook no questioning of their version of the world. If you wish to graduate free speech does not exist.

Bird of Paradise said...

If Jessie Jackson and his RAINBOW/PUSH idiots dont like the Stars and Bars then they can go pound sand with Al Sharpton and Louis Farakhan