A protester holds a copy of the U.S. Constitution. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Roselle Park wasted taxpayer resources and courts’ time with its foolish and unconstitutional targeting of a pro-Trump borough resident.
The “Fuck Biden” flags on display next to Andrea Dick’s home may be tacky and the message on them may be unsubtle, but they are an obvious display of political speech protected by the First Amendment.
The town’s mayor, Joseph Signorello, had argued Roselle Park officials can’t pick and choose which town ordinances to enforce. Fine. But they did not have to interpret the town’s anti-obscenity ordinance to include political speech, which is protected.
Signorello has noted Dick’s home is near an elementary school, a fact also cited by a mother who criticized the flags in a letter to NJ.com.
Yes, children may see the flags and the four-letter word printed on them. So what? It’s hard if not impossible to keep even a very young child from exposure to profanity, especially in a state as proud of its coarse reputation as New Jersey. If the mere sight of a curse word is that upsetting to the parents of Roselle Park, they can avoid the issue altogether by taking their children on a different route to school.
A 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling centered around the very epithet printed on the flags outside Dick’s home warned that, by attempting to ban a particular word from the public sphere, the government runs the risk of suppressing ideas in the process. That’s the danger posed by Roselle Park’s initial action.
The crudeness of our current political environment is not optimal. Donald Trump didn’t light that fire, though he certainly poured gasoline on it.
It would be great if voters who supported losing political candidates accepted election losses gracefully and kept their political views civil. But we’re not there yet, and using the levers of government to force someone to exhibit more polite political views does not get us closer to that goal.
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