Today’s NYT reports that a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag went up at a city-owned armory in New Rochelle, NY. The city of New Rochelle said no, bad idea. A local veterans group has sued the city. I do not pay taxes in New Rochelle, but this seems to me a clear case. The job of government is not to save souls, nor is it to use tax dollars to support divisive symbols. I do not know what Benjamin Franklin, who first published the snake image, would make of the Tea Party. I accept the statement of the man, Moises Valencia, who in this case paid for the flag and said he did not know about the Tea Party’s use of this flag; and I mean no disrespect to him. And the city of New Rochelle might have “done themselves a great favor,” as Ken Paulson of Middle Tennessee State University observed, “by simply announcing they were going to ban any flag other than that of the United States.” But the principle here remains.
Free speech is a right of persons, not governments–or ostensibly person-like corporations. Governments have no right to favor one religion. Or one race. Or one orientation, speaking symbolically and literally. When did that become the meaning of the Constitution? As soon as we woke up and smelled the beach roses, which have been planted hundreds of miles inland in these latter days.