THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE THIN BLUE LINE
If you own private property in the state of Ohio and think you have the right to speak or not speak your mind, meet State Representatives Tim Ginter and Kevin Miller. They have introduced HB No. 712, which would “prohibit manufactured home park operators, condominium associations, neighborhood associations, and landlords from restricting the display of the thin blue line flag.” If this bill passes, property owners who would prefer not to display the flag which has come to be associated at times with white supremacy movements and those who oppose policing reforms will be compelled, by the force of law to permit a tenant to fly the flag.
This legislation is viewpoint based, compelled speech and anyone who purports to uphold and defend the constitution should be appalled by it. The government has no business telling us what we can’t say or, in this case, what we must say. In 1943, the United States Supreme Court, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, ruled that a public school could not force a student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In doing so, Justice Robert Jackson wrote: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
I think of the Barnette case now and then, and consider the courage of the Court to reach that decision in the midst of World War II. It would be nice if Representatives Ginter and Miller would take the time to read it.