The Walkerville Weekly Reader

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Walkerville, VA
Monday, May 20, 2024
Carolyn Purcell, Editor

ACLU acknowledges time limit on free speech

South Carolina ACLU says government has every right to limit free speech to sixty days out of the year, supports similar limits on Internet usage.

The American Civil Liberties Union clarified its hardline stance on freedom of speech on Monday, saying that freedom of speech is not violated as long as local governments allow it “some of the time”. For example, Laverne Neal of Columbia, South Carolina, said that “towns have a right to have sign-limit ordinances which limit political speech to no more than sixty days of the year.”

The shift in position was formulated in response to a local restaurant owner’s decision to protest local policy by dropping the federal flag from his restaurants’ flagpoles and flying the Confederate flag. Restaurant owner Maurice Bessinger claimed it was part of his constitutional right to freedom of speech. The city began fining him for flying a flag on his flagpole without a permit. Permits cost twenty dollars and place a limit of sixty days for flying unapproved flags.

According to the ACLU “sixty days is more than enough time to state your position.” Neal said that “if the government doesn’t listen to you in sixty days, you might as well just give up.”

When asked if the ACLU held this position because of the unpopularity of Bessinger’s political views, Neal replied “absolutely not. We would be saying the same thing for any political speech, not just flags or pro-Confederate speech. We understand that the city council is considering an ordinance banning Internet usage unless individuals pay a twenty dollar fee, and then they must not use the Internet more than sixty days a year. We fully support this ordinance.”

A spokeswoman for the city council refuted that, saying that the council has no such ordinance planned. She also said that the council had modified the offending ordinance, ending the ban on unapproved flags.

According to Columbia councilman Stewart Bond, “when we realized that the ACLU agreed with our position, we knew it was wrong. That’s why we modified the ordinance to allow political speech.”

The ACLU indicated that they are considering suing the Columbia city council. “The government cannot go overboard when it comes to political speech,” said Neal. “There have to be limits.”

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