Garrett Epps of the Atlantic asks whether there should be limits to government speech, pointing to last week’s Supreme Court Texas license-plate case, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans.
“Many people see Walker as a case about the Confederate Battle Flag; but Walker has little to do with the flag, and much to do with a recent invention of the Court, the doctrine of ‘government speech.’”
“It’s worth understanding that idea for two reasons. First, whatever the Court decides, we are going to hear more, perhaps a great deal more, about government speech again soon. And, second, the Court’s venture into this area seems to follow a long-established pattern of First Amendment growth. At first, the Court announces that a certain kind of speech—defamation, say, or obscenity—is outside the First Amendment; next, government bodies begin restricting that kind of speech; finally, the Court narrows the exception to Free Speech to manageable size.”
“Government is usually the loudest voice in the room; we need rules on how much attention it has to pay to citizens when it decides to shout. A workable rule will balance citizens’ speech rights against government necessity. A number of the justices don’t care much for balancing. But there’s really no escaping it in an area this delicate. The Texas case seems like a good chance for this Court to start settling this beef.”Save to Favorites