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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Federal Court Strikes Down Pa. Town’s Ban on Pro-Police Flags

'It showed once again that the government cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination based upon a message it disagrees with or finds offensive...'

(Headline USA) A federal court struck down this week a Pennsylvania township’s ban on the display of flags featuring a thin blue line—a symbol meant to demonstrate support for law enforcement.

The Springfield Township, just outside of Philadelphia, banned the popular flags in 2021, claiming they created “discontent and distrust” in the community.

Several township commissioners alleged the flag was incompatible with the Black Lives Matter movement and issued a cease-and-desist letter to the local police union after the union voted to make the thin blue line a part of its official logo.

The symbol “unnecessarily exacerbates the ongoing conflict between police officers and the communities they serve,” the letter claimed, demanding that the union to stop using the flag or remove Springfield Township from its name.

After the union refused, the township passed a policy formally banning all township employees, agents or consultants from displaying the flag while on duty or representing the township.

This week, U.S. District Judge Karen Marston struck down the ban as a violation of public employees’ free speech rights.

“The Township repeatedly suggests that the ‘Thin Blue Line’ American Flag is of limited, if any, public value or concern because it is ‘offensive’ and ‘racist,’” Marston wrote in the court opinion.

“But as this Court previously told the Township, ‘the First Amendment protects speech even when it is considered ‘offensive,'” she added, and even if the “flag carries racist undertones to certain members of the community.”

Wally Zimolong, an attorney representing the police officers, said the court’s ruling was a vindication of his clients’ constitutional rights.

“It was a resounding win for the First Amendment and free speech,” he said. “It showed once again that the government cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination based upon a message it disagrees with or finds offensive.”

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