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License Plates and the Confederate Flag

Caricature of SteveThe Texas Division of the “Sons of Confederate Veterans”  wants to sponsor a personalized license plate (vanity plates) that carries the group’s logo including the Confederate Flag. But the state says no.  Now the Supreme Court must decide.

I think state governments have the right and responsibility to establish the parameters of vanity license plates—as long as those restrictions are clearly articulated in advance.

For example, any state should be entitled to ban vanity plates in their entirety. However, if such license plates are permitted they should meet specific criteria. And those standards should be established by the state prior to individual requests.

In the case of Texas, if the government allows certain groups to affix their name and logo to vanity plates, the state should do it evenhandedly. But that should have been determined prior to this instance.

–Should religious organizations be permitted to sponsor vanity plates? If so, how do you define what is a religious organization?

–Should political organizations, charitable groups, private sector companies and educational institutions be granted the same right? Again, how do you define who is a legitimate applicant within each category?

–To what degree do you permit puns, double entendre and possible insensitive or offensive words of numeric-letter combinations subject to such interpretation?

My view is simple.

There is no violation of free speech if the criteria are well established by the state government in terms of who is eligible to sponsor vanity license plates. But the categories of eligibility should be broad, criteria specific–yet accommodating.

“Sons of Confederate Veterans ” and its Confederate Flag should be permitted—but only if the group has qualified previously within one of the recognized groups mentioned above.

Otherwise, the answer is no.


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