The case of Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. is in front of the Supreme Court of the United States [stories here, here, and here]. You can see the filings here. There is a recap of the oral arguments and analysis here.
At issue is whether Texas should have to issue specialty license plates with the logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which contains a confederate battle flag, on them.
The crux on which the case turns is freedom of speech, but whose speech? Are messages on license plates manufactured and issued by the state government speech or private speech? If they are government speech, does the government have the right to not put out a message or does it have to put out any message demanded? If they are private speech, does the government have the right to restrict those messages?
Some of my blogging colleagues have weighed in. Andy Hall believes the SCV will win the case. Kevin Levin has come out in favor of the SCV’s position in this case. Brooks Simpson maintains an approximate position of amused neutrality, though if I had to guess, I’d say he’s leaning toward the SCV’s side. I predict Brooks will find the various reactions … wait for it … predictable. 🙂
Personally, I’m neutral on the outcome. Whichever way the court rules is fine by me. If they rule that license plates are government speech and the government has the right to determine what it will and will not say, fine. People who want to advertise their SCV membership on their vehicles can buy bumper stickers. If they rule that license plates are private speech and the government has to allow the message, fine. Opponents can design their own specialty plates. I have no problem with individuals who wish to display the confederate flag on their own property, including their vehicle.
The case will have reverberations beyond whether the confederate battle flag can be displayed next to a car’s exhaust pipe. It will affect other specialty plates, and it will also affect other ways in which government funds and facilities are used to promulgate messages. I find that a far more compelling reason to be concerned about the outcome.
If the SCV loses, look for movements to get rid of SCV specialty tags in other states, probably starting with Virginia and Maryland. If the SCV wins, look for heritage instead of history types to misrepresent it. It’s what they do.
Do you have a position on this case?