March 26, 2015

Just a suggestion: Texas license plates

Sam Smith - My right of free speech does not allow me to put a political sticker on my neighbor's car. It does not allow me use a portable microphone in the balcony of the Senate or the House during a session of Congress. I can't scream my free speech into my neighbor's window at 2 am. Most people would accept that.

So why is it necessary, or even legal, for me to express my views on a Texas license plate? Or to plant a sign with the Ten Commandants on the lawn in front of the state capitol?

We actually went for decades without slogans or colored ribbons on license places and the national discussion of major matters was at least as good as it is now.

But what about ads in public subways? Ads are ads and as long as they are presented in such a fashion that everyone knows they are ads, it doesn't imply that the MTA agrees with them. There are issues, such as raised by vehemently anti-Islamic ads, but this could be cured by requiring all such posters be in support of something, rather than attacking something.

The simple solution to the debate over Texas license plate symbols and slogans is to rule that since such plates should have nothing but government matters inscribed on them. Any slogan, like a cross on the capitol lawn, suggests that the symbol or words are the government's idea. That's not free speech; that's poaching on public space.

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