Confederate battle flag is free speech, must be put on license plates, group argues

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”


Many well-known courtroom battles involving the interplay between the rights of individuals and the government boil down to what a government can legally require a citizen to do and how far it can go in enforcing its power.

Flag_of_Texas Charlotte Injury Lawyer North Carolina Civil Rights AttorneyIn the debate over the Affordable Care Act, for instance, many citizens and groups who objected to the passage of the law did so on the principle that the Federal Government should not—and does not, consistent with the Constitution—have the power to require citizens to purchase health insurance.

The United States Supreme Court actually rejected the notion that the Federal Government can require an individual to purchase health insurance in a now-famous 2012 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts in National Federation of Independent Business et al. v. Sebelius. The high court held, however, that the federal government can use its power to tax citizens to enforce the so-called individual mandate.

That decision was hailed by some as marking the most significant rearrangement of the relationship between the American citizen and one’s government since the passage in the early 1970s of the Controlled Substances Act. Only time—and the regulatory choices of agencies within the Federal Government—will tell if that becomes the case or not.

The case that is before the Supreme Court this week turns the individual-mandate question on its head. The question boils down to what, exactly, a citizen can require a state government to do, and which citizen requests a state can lawfully refuse.

The state in question is Texas. Like many states, Texas offers drivers who register their vehicles in the Lone Star State the option of purchasing specialty license plates, for a price. Texas drivers spent $17.6 million last year alone on specialty plates, which can come with one of 350 specialty designs or messages.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans—a group dedicated to preserving the memory and history of veterans of the Civil War who fought for the American south, known as the Confederacy—asked the Texas Motor Vehicle Board to approve a logo bearing the Confederate battle flag, according to the Daily Mail.

The Board would not approve the logo for use on Texas license plates, arguing that many Texas drivers who saw the logo would consider it to be “a racially charged symbol of repression.”

The group brought suit against the State of Texas, arguing that the state infringed upon its free-speech rights, found in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The group is, in effect, asking the Federal Government to order Texas to perform an act the state has refused, drawing some unlikely allies to its cause—including the American Civil Liberties Union, anti-abortion groups, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. They argue that speech, while offensive, must be tolerated and even “celebrated as a symbol of democratic health,” according to the Daily Mail.

If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAW Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






Image Credit

“Flag of Texas”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – 



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