Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Federal Judge Tosses Lexington Flag Lawsuit

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 14, 2012

Via Kevin, the U.S District Court has granted the City of Lexington’s motion to dismiss the SCV’s lawsuit against the city. Rob Baker points to Judge Samuel Wilson’s ruling:

The Constitution does not compel a municipality to provide its citizens a bully pulpit, but rather requires it to refrain from using its own position of authority to infringe free speech.
 
Second, there are highly compelling practical reasons for a city to close its flag poles to private expression. The city that cracks the door to private expression on flag poles practically invites litigation from other groups whose messages it would rather not hoist above the city. Related to that point, private expression might eventually so dominate city flag poles as to swallow whole the flag poles’ actual, official purposes.
 
Third, and finally, the ordinance in this case leaves ample opportunity for SCV and every other group to display the flags of their choice. That is true by the ordinance’s own terms: “Nothing set forth herein is intended in any way to prohibit or curtail individuals from carrying flags in public and/or displaying them on private property.” § 420-205(C)(2). SCV and other groups may therefore carry their flags in parades, fly them from the flag poles at their local offices, or wave them while walking to the grocery store. As such, the ordinance is perfectly reasonable.
 
Because reasonable, nondiscriminatory, content-neutral rules regulating speech in nonpublic fora pass First Amendment constitutional muster regardless of motive, the court will grant the City’s motion to dismiss.

Grafs are added for clarity. And then there’s this:

No court has found that the Constitution compels the government to allow private-party access to government flag poles.

I seem to recall someone saying at the time that the Lexington “ordinance is air tight.” That person was right.

The local SCV, led by Brandon Dorsey, isn’t happy:

As far as I am concerned, this is little different that some states shutting down all their public schools to avoid desegregation and then claiming their motivation for closing them is of no concern because they screwed over everyone.

Of all the possible analogies, Mr. Dorsey, you had to go with that one, didn’t you? It must be hard, getting H. K. Edgerton and Ruby Bridges mixed up like that. Because they’re so much alike, or something. But do try harder next time, please.

Update, June 16: Dorsey’s analogy, comparing the Virginia SCV’s situation to that of African Americans in the Jim Crow South, doesn’t appear to be an off-the-cuff comment; it’s a conscious public relations strategy. Yesterday they vowed to appeal Judge Wilson’s dismissal, and made the same analogy:

In its written statement, Sons of Confederate Veterans maintained that Wilson’s ruling would allow governments to deny everyone access to public places in its effort to silence the groups with whom it disagrees.

“That logic would legitimize many of the wrongs committed by state and local governments during the Civil Rights era,” the statement read.

“In its written statement. . . .”

Many of us have made the point that, in its public actions and rhetoric, the Southron Heritage™ movement is preaching to the choir; they’re doing and saying things calculated to appeal to fellow true believers, going out of their way to prove they’re more unreconstructed than the next guy. As for winning new supporters to their cause, or shaping broader public opinion, it’s a terrible strategy that only distances them farther from mainstream views and attitudes.

This analogy by Dorsey and his fellows doesn’t help their cause; it actively harms it. Anyone who actually remembers the Civil Rights Movement, or who’s studied it since, will be repulsed by such a comparison, and rightly so. It’s an odious analogy, one that should cost them any benefit of the doubt that the public might be willing to entertain about their motivations and supposed good faith. Kevin is right again: “they deserve everything they get.”

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