SCOTUS Pulls the SCV Over for Speeding

In the case of Walker v. SCV, the Supreme Court of the United States weighed in on the controversy over SCV license plates bearing the image of the confederate flag. You can see stories here and here. The full opinion is here. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the four more liberal members of the Court to make up the five-member majority. Andy Hall and Kevin Levin are all over this at their blogs.

I first covered this case in March of this year.

The crux of the decision appears to be that license plates, being issued by the state, comprise speech by the state, not by the driver. That being the case, the driver’s First Amendment rights aren’t violated by the state regulating what can and cannot be put on the license plates. If the driver feels a need to make a statement, bumper stickers or other types of displays will fill the need. The Court used the case of Prairie Grove City v. Summum, in which they ruled that a government accepting a privately funded monument and putting it on government-owned property is engaging in speech itself, and therefore it has the right to regulate that speech. The Court regarded the license plate issue as essentially following the same principle.

As I said in March, either way the Court went would have been fine with me, so I’m okay with this ruling. We may see further reaction down the road in the form of other states banning the flag logo from their plates. Then again, maybe not.

What’s your opinion?



  1. What, no IZ this Friday? 😉

    As far as sentiment, I agree and think SCOTUS got it right. And I suppose that state vs individual free speech argument makes some sense. But from the little experience I have with such legal issues (e.g. labor unions and free speech) I think an argument could be made that this is discriminatory. If the state has allowed other flags and/or historical symbols, singling this one out for rejection could be iffy. I do realize that SCOTUS deals with constitutional issues, and may just be narrowly focusing on the free speech part here.

    Reactions to this from certain folks should be interesting, even if a bit predictable. 🙂

    1. Too much going on this week for the Aloha time. 🙂

      I think the Court dealt with the discrimination issue pretty well in saying it’s the state who’s speaking. I have the freedom of speech to say what I want to say and to not say what I don’t want to say. So does the state.

      I’m sure reactions from some folks will be entertaining. 😉

  2. Rosieo · · Reply

    The court did the right thing… TEXAS did the right thing!
    I am coming to believe the confederate flag should be banned… legislation should be enacted to ban it. There should be some correction sometime for the post Civil War reunion mistakes – they were more than mistakes: errors. People then and now sometimes cant see beyond their own little piece of the world. I am thinking of the SC church shooter. I look at him and think: there but for the date on the calendar is a confederate undercover agent. I want the war to be over already. And, Mr. Al (If you can’t be Dr Al how about General?….) And Al, Robert E. Lee still always was a schmuck.

    1. Well, I disagree with completely banning the confederate flag. I’m a believer in free speech, and individuals have a right to express their opinion. I also disagree about Lee. He wasn’t a schmuck. He was a very talented general who did what he thought was right.

      I can’t be General Al because I never achieved that rank and it would be impersonating a general officer. I did, however, make colonel. 🙂

      1. I agree on Lee’s generalship, Al. However, although I might not use the word “schmuck,” I did come away from Nolan’s “Lee Considered” with a much lower opinion of him as a person.

        IIRC, TR supposedly said that of all titles (including “Mr. President”) Colonel was the one he held most dear. So, you’re in good company.

        1. Thanks, Bert. While Nolan did bring up a number of excellent points, his book was really a brief for the prosecution of Lee, not something geared to give a balanced view of the man.

  3. Perhaps, Colonel, we are not judging Lee by the same criteria. We are not grading him on the same areas of performance. I have to think on this some before I write anything further.

    As for free speech and Confederate flag: Nah. The battle flag is seen for what it was: a battle flag. You are free of any nutball crazy sickness in your brain and you go through life letting reasoable free “heritage” speech be and that is how things ought to be. Some people have warped thought processes even if they look okay most of the time. I am not telling you something I think you don’t know, I am thinking as I write. Getting rid of the flag would be a “teaching moment” – make everyone, everyone, stop and think about an anti-U.S. battle flag, a war flag, waving around over highways and parks and decorating people’s family rooms and bedrooms. I’m for dumping it for all time and to the core of my soul I am a journalist – and a mom and a person (all these roles at once, not in order of priority)…

    1. Once we say we can ban speech because we find it offensive, there’s nothing to prevent someone from declaring your speech offensive or my speech offensive and banning it.

  4. Bert: thanks for speaking out. …

  5. “Once we say we can ban speech because we find it offensive, there’s nothing to prevent someone from declaring your speech offensive or my speech offensive and banning it.”

    I see your point but I am not talking about speech…I favor communication – hashing it out is how people come to understand each other…..

    I am talking about a battle flag that is a symbol that promotes hate. It can be in a museum. It can be pictured in a history book. It should not be waving on government property and people ought to understand what it really is others see as the message when they hang the battle flag on private property.
    Why cannot it be illegal to fly the flag of treason especiallly when people 150 years later are still dying under its banner? Things can be banned. Example: It is illegal to possess crack. In fact, if you are in a house where you know someone has crack and you do not call cops and cops come around and find said chack, you get charged with possession. Why? Because crack hurts individuals and society.

    (CW Institute on Cspan has been great… But I want to hear the Richmond/Petersburg talks! I hope cspan records and eventually broadcasts them. You are lucky, Al, to be there! )

    1. Displaying the flag is speech, Rosemary. You can’t ban individuals from displaying it on their own property.

      No C-SPAN for the tours so far.

  6. You are a tough debate opponent and I like that… I like a good intellectual challenge…. you may be right on the flag and private speech.. ok, you are.

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