Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Palestine, Texas Chamber of Commerce Invites a Lawsuit

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 6, 2013

Palestine, a town in East Texas, has an annual event in the spring, put on by the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce, called the Dogwood Trails Festival. For a number of years, the local John H. Reagan Camp of the SCV has participated with a booth on the event grounds, explaining their organization and looking to recruit new members. Not this year:


The Dogwood Trails Festival in downtown Palestine will have one less booth occupied this month now that organizers have denied a group they’re calling, “politically divisive.”
The John H. Reagan Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans say they are both disappointed and confused by the city’s decision. A spokesperson for the group said they are a historical organization that honors all veterans of all wars.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans say they’ll still participate in the Dogwood Trails Festival, just like they have in years past, but this year they’ll do it on their own property.


This is a pretty familiar story these days. Even in places like East Texas, there’s a lot of ambivalence about Confederate Heritage™, especially when (as in the case of the SCV) it’s represented by a Confederate Battle Flag. The CBF is “divisive,” for good reason, and other Confederate symbols have been the subject of considerable controversy there in recent years. I can understand Chamber of Commerce’s desire to avoid the issue altogether. Unfortunately, the board’s prepared statement explaining their decision makes their position much more difficult to defend:


The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce is FOR building a stronger community. Our volunteers spend countless hours doing so. It is not in the community’s best interest to allow politically divisive groups to participate in the Dogwood Trails parade or to be a vendor at the Festival. We are charged with the responsibility to operate on behalf of the city of Palestine.


My emphasis. While the board members — who count among their number at least one attorney — may have meant the larger Palestine community, their statement suggests they’re operating as an extension of the city government, in which case they’re sunk, legally. As I outlined earlier, governmental entities can’t really pick and choose who they affiliate with in the same way that private groups can, and issuing a formal statement that you’re operating “on behalf of the city” is a good way to get yourself sued.

The Reagan Camp is one of the highest-profile, most active camps in the state, and it will be interesting to watch this case play out. #HeritageViolation is trending on Twitter, even as I type. Pass the popcorn.


12 Responses

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  1. Bummer said, on March 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Shot to the foot, is a classic depiction!


    • Andy Hall said, on March 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      I can see why the CofC wanted to avoid the controversy, but I think they’ve made it worse for themselves.

      • M.D. Blough said, on March 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm

        The town didn’t have to create a public forum, but, once it did, a content-based restriction is almost impossible to get upheld in court and that’s exactly what’s at issue here. It isn’t enough to argue that people who are angered by a group’s message might be violent towards it. That could be used to silence the most peaceful group, if it were an acceptable defense. If a group INSTIGATES violence against others, that can be a basis for exclusion but, regardless of the issues I have with the current leadership of the SCV, they are not known for instigating violence.

        • Andy Hall said, on March 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

          They can fight this one out, like every other case. They’ll win some, and lose some. I actually have a good bit of confidence in the courts to pare away the rhetoric and decide these things based on the law.

  2. Pat Young said, on March 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Chambers of Commerce are typically not governmental entities, no matter what the CofC says. Private entities can discriminate in inclusion in events even if held on public property. The best known example of this may be the exclusion of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC.

  3. Billy Bearden said, on March 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    The NAACP of Palestine pressured the Council to reverse itself and yank the 1st National down after just 4 days of flying with official sanction. The same NAACP in Palestine is the 1st group listed in organization membership in the Palestine Chamber of Commerce.
    I hope the City of Palestine gets sued big over this.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      The NAACP listed third in their general listing of organizations; I don’t see any obvious reason for the ordering. It is the first chamber member listed alphabetically under the letter N, possibly because the next two letters are A and A. The alphabet has a clear liberal bias.

      • M.D. Blough said, on March 6, 2013 at 11:14 pm

        So if they rename themselves Aaaahsome Sons of Confederate Veterans then the SCV will come first alphabetically in the Chamber of Commerce’s directory just after the Aaahhsome Salon & Day Spa

      • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on March 7, 2013 at 11:49 am

        Reckon it’s time we did somethin’ about that damn liberal alphabet, if you ask me. Things just ain’t been the same since we moved from Gothic typography to Roman.

        • Andy Hall said, on March 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

          Liked your post today on cotton bonds. The Erlangers are (figuratively speeking) ol’ buddies from the Denbigh days.

          • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on March 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm

            Thanks, Andy. I figured that with the Denbigh going in and out of Galvaston on occasion you would have been familiar with Erlanger and Co. Sounds like they were pretty shrewd operators.

            • Andy Hall said, on March 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm

              The thing that made it work was that they were redeemable at face value in the South, at the prevailing market price in the South. By the last year of the war, the CS government — which at that point was taking cotton in lieu of specie for tax payments and other revenue — wasn’t even bothering to collect it, they’d just send an agent to tag it as official CS property. So a bond holder could purchase (IIRC) $100 worth of bonds for $93, exchange it for $100 worth of cotton at local price in Galveston or Mobile, and then sell it at Havana for 2- to 4 times as much. High risk, high reward.

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