Oregon “Redneck” Flag Case Moves Forward
Ken Webber, the rural Oregon school bus driver who was fired after refusing to remove a large Confederate flag from his truck, blazoned “REDNECK,” when it was parked in his employer’s lot, has gotten permission to proceed with his case against the local school district. I had understood that the district had been excused from the case because Webber worked for a private contractor, but perhaps they were reinstated as defendants.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke ruled against a motion to dismiss the First Amendment case and said the suit should go to trial, according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Medford. School bus company First Student Inc. and Jackson County School District 4 had argued the case should be dismissed because driver Ken Webber flew the flag as an expression of what he called his “redneck lifestyle,” not protected political speech. Clarke wrote there is enough evidence to allow a jury to find that Webber flew the flag to express his feelings for history and heritage, which other courts have included in freedom of speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The magistrate’s recommendation goes to a judge for final action. No trial date has been set. Webber’s attorney Thomas Boardman called it “a thrilling victory for the First Amendment.”
Well, no — not yet, anyway. This ruling means Webber’s still in the game. It remains to be seen whether the federal judge in the case will accept the magistrate’s ruling and schedule an actual trial. And this:
Clarke also found that Webber’s flag amounted to an expression of his personal beliefs, and could not be considered an expression of policies of the bus company or school district.
I have no idea what those beliefs actually are, which would at least help one understand Webber’s position. As I’ve said before, the interesting thing about this case to me is that Webber, as far as I can see, hasn’t made any claim that his flag is an expression of Southern culture or Confederate heritage or any particular historic connection; he seemingly equates the Confederate Battle Flag with redneckism/redneckitude/redneckery. That’s entirely his prerogative, of course, but advocates for public display of the Confederate Battle Flag ought to be uneasy about that.
Image: Associated Press.