Government bullies and the First Amendment

When you take cash from the government at any level — even though they confiscated it from you and your friends and family initially — you should expect to be giving up SOME freedom. But two different cases here in North Carolina showcase government entities possibly overstepping their bounds.

First, we have the case of the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department in Montgomery County.  Here’s Fox News:

A fire department in North Carolina stands to lose at least $19,000 because of its refusal to remove a Confederate flag from its property. 

The Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department has been flying the Confederate flag in front of the fire station for years. Firefighters say it represents history and heritage, not racism. 

“The flag is not hurting a thing,” Lee Hudson, with the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department, told WFMY. “We are not a racist department. We are not in any way. Members or the department as a whole.”

Montgomery County Commissioners, however, disagree.

“The Board of Commissioners stated their position, that they did think the flag was inappropriate and requested for the fire department to take it down,” Montgomery County Manager Matthew Woodard told WFMY.

The Board of Commissioners sent firefighters a letter last week saying that they will withhold funding for the department until it takes down the flag. 

The Charlotte Observer reports the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department gets $19,000 a year from Montgomery County, plus $400,000 annually for fire trucks. The department was organized as a non-profit corporation in 1983.

Firefighters said they do not plan on removing the Confederate flag any time soon.

“We would love to work with the county and for them to support us,” said Hudson. “But, we’re not going to move on the issue of taking down the flag.”

The flag has been flying “for years.” The fire department has been getting funding from the county “for years” — possibly since 1983.  If the flag was OK last year, the year before, and the year before, WHY is it a problem NOW?

Are these folks at the volunteer fire department actually doing their job in a professional, competent manner?  Is there an ordinance banning the display of flags in this community?  Is the Confederate flag specifically banned?

Even better —  Charlotte is getting sued for a sign ordinance that allegedly picks and chooses who is in violation based on the content of said signs. A pro-life group, led by the reality TV stars known as The Benham Brothers, is suing over the city’s efforts to kill their anti-abortion protests. Here’s a little from their complaint:

[…] .1.  In his opinion for the Court in Police Department of Chicago v.
Mosley, Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote that “above all else, the First
Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression
because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.” 408 U.S.
92, 95 (1972).
2. Contrary to this venerable principle of constitutional law
articulated by Justice Marshall in Mosley, the Defendants in this case—
specifically, the City of Charlotte, its Mayor, and its employees—have used
the City Code to violate the First Amendment by restricting Plaintiffs’ use of
signs, and therefore their speech, because they object to the content of those
signs.

3. Thus, despite their desire to exercise their constitutional rights
and speak freely, Plaintiffs have encountered unconstitutional censorship,
intimidation, and harassment from Defendants.

[…] 6. The United States Supreme Court has long recognized that
public fora have immemorially been held in trust for public use for the
purpose of expressing beliefs, communicating thoughts between citizens, and
discussing public questions. The Supreme Court has likewise emphasized
that public land is the natural and proper place for the dissemination of
information and opinion and that a person cannot have his right to free
speech in appropriate places abridged simply because that right to speak can
be exercised in some other place or because a private entity wants to silence
his speech. Public property in the City of Charlotte, North Carolina, is no
exception.
7. Defendants, through their enforcement of City Code § 10-212,
prohibit speakers from resting their signs on the ground while they are
assembled outside of abortion facilities and thereby restrict Plaintiffs’ right to  

free speech on significant portions of land. This restriction does not apply to
many other types of signs whose content is different from those used by
Plaintiffs. Defendants thus unconstitutionally restrict Plaintiffs’ rights
because of the pro-life messages their signs convey.
8. City Code § 10-212 has further been interpreted and enforced by
Defendants so as to arbitrarily forbid and silence speech with which they or
others disagree.[…] 

On one hand, you can argue that — if you take public money — you are submitting yourselves to the whims of the bureaucracy which handed it to you.  Kind of like a whore’s relationship to a pimp or a junkies’ relationship to a dealer.

On the other hand, to sacrifice the quality of emergency response to a rural community — like what is happening in Montgomery County — over a political disagreement is appalling, to say the least.  You’re talking about denying fire service to residents of unincorporated areas.  The county contracted with a private organization to provide services to its residents — services that not just anyone can provide. 

And in Charlotte, the idea of shutting down protests because city leaders don’t like the subject matter of the protest is also appalling.  I can see shutting down a protest if they are blocking street traffic or impeding the use of a public sidewalk.  But that’s not what we’re talking about here, apparently.

Basing the implementation of public policy on how the people in office at the time view a certain political issue — a flag, or abortion, let’s say — is a disservice to the people they are supposed to be serving.  It is JUST WRONG.

10 comments for “Government bullies and the First Amendment

  1. GUWonder
    November 21, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Maybe someone who has a fire can sue that Stalinist county commission and argue they would have gotten better fire protection and lost less if the county treated their fire department equally with other fire departments.

    This county commission is 3 to 2 Democrat controlled. One of the Democrats and one of the Republicans is up next year. I would rather suspect that the Dem is one of the censorship crowd, but the Republican is hard to tell – is he/she a RINO or a conservative?

    It looks like this is a swamp that needs to be drained, at least of that Democrat Stalinist. As to the Republican, if he is a weanie who supports this crap, then he needs to go in the primary.

    These despicable thugs on this county commission have the same hatred for history as the Taliban, ISIS, and the Nazi bookburners. I presume, there would be no issue at all if they were flying a Soviet hammer and sickle flag or an ISIS flag, instead of a flag that represents our North Carolina history.

  2. Doug
    November 22, 2017 at 9:48 am

    The Montgomery County situation is just stupid. They are volunteers, and it is getting increasingly difficult to staff these types of departments, they should just feel lucky to have them..flag or no flag.

    The county’s alternative is to find another group willing to do the same service and fund them, build their own station at a much much higher price, or just stop funding any fire services. From what I read elsewhere the station gets a significant portion of it’s funding from donations anyway…maybe they just need to get off the government dole altogether.

    • Raphael
      November 25, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Much of the funding for volunteer fire departments is raised locally in the area served, and setting up a rival department would probably fall flat on its face for that reason. What is most grating here is an arrogant bunch of county politicians interfering in the internal affairs of a volunteer fire department, and doing so on grounds that are highly political. All volunteer fire departments in the county should recognize the threat to all of them from this precedent and band together to change their county commission. With volunteer firemen from all over the county united against them, these out of touch county commissioners would not have a chance.

      It is not just about the immediate issue of the flag: it is about an overbearing county commission becoming control freaks and dictatorial. This should not be allowed to stand. The volunteer firemen, working together, have an ability to do something about it.

  3. JBP
    November 22, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Displaying the Confederate flag outside the fire station that gains from public funding – “is a disservice to the people they are supposed to be serving. It is JUST WRONG.”
    IF the folks at the volunteer fire department actually doing their job in a professional, competent manner the removal of the flag will not impact their service to the community. If, on the other hand, they refuse to remove the offensive flag the county should start funding another start up fire station.
    It is easy to say that the flag is to honor one’s heritage but when so many in the community see it ONLY as a symbol of oppression and racism it should be the obvious choice to remove it. The county commissioners (4/5 are white men) deem this to be the case and so the fire department should remove the flag. It does not take a flag to honor your ancestors, especially in a public place funded with public dollars.

    • john steed
      November 24, 2017 at 7:32 am

      There you go again with your ISIS mentality! Or is it from the Nazi bookburners? Only ignorant morons or those easily led by the likes of former Nazi collaborator George Soros and his organizations see the proud Confederate Battle Flag as a ”symbol of oppression”. According the polls, most people in America – normal people, that is – see the flag as a symbol of southern pride, NOT a a symbol of racism.

      Onlty totalitarians want to suppress our history. This county commission seems to be made up of the extreme left and needs to be removed from office by the voters..

      And what do you progs want to do with “offensive” people? Put us in re-education camps like Pol Pot, or give us a quick bullet in the back of the head like Lenin and Stalin? Maybe all you progs should just move to one of those “workers paradises” you all dream of like North Korea, Venezuela, or Zimbabwe. Please take your obnoxious bigotry against the South and its people somewhere else.

    • Toxhandler
      November 24, 2017 at 7:59 am

      This is a southern public place funded by southern public dollars, and to quote Lynard Skinnard, a southern man don’t need you around anyhow. You’re lucky that conservatives suffer you to post your drivel here because we believe in free speech which is more than you Stalinists over on BlueNC.com allow. Spare us your pretentions of moral superiority.

      • john steed
        November 24, 2017 at 3:07 pm

        The left simply does not believe in free speech, which is why they do not allow it at Blue NC. Their major protest group, Antifa, is also a big opponent of free speech and tries to shut down opinions they disagree with. Their name ought to be modified to Anti-FA (Anti- First Amendment). Attacks on historic flags and monuments are also attacks on forms of free speech.

      • J.P. Jones
        November 24, 2017 at 11:56 pm

        I just checked out the BlueNC.com site. Wow. Those wackos have such vivid imaginations. They say we’re intolerant? I question their grasp of reality.

        • Doug
          November 27, 2017 at 12:16 pm

          There is no question. They have no grasp of reality.

    • Doug
      November 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      All I have to say is you need to do your research. The reply to all of your false assumptions is no it is not.

Comments are closed.