Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Virginia State News

July 5, 2013

Court sides with Va. city on Confederate flag ban

RICHMOND, Va. — Lexington’s ban on the flying of the Confederate flag on city light poles does not violate a heritage group’s right of free speech, a federal appeals court said Friday.

The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond upheld a lower court ruling on the city’s 2011 ordinance limiting flags that may fly on the poles to those representing the city, the U.S. and the state of Virginia.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans had challenged the ordinance, saying it violated its constitutional rights and violated a 20-year-old court order when it enacted the ordinance in September 2011.

The group had appealed a decision last summer by a federal judge who concluded the ordinance did not violate a 1993 consent decree, which blocked the city’s attempt to ban the display of the Confederate flag during a parade honoring Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, who is buried in Lexington along with Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The lower court said the city’s 2011 ordinance was reasonable because it banned all non-government flag displays. And it does not restrict the flying of the flag elsewhere in the city.

In its opinion on Friday, the appeals court panel said although the First Amendment guarantees free speech in a public forum, it “does not guarantee access to property simply because it is owned or controlled by the government.”

Jeremy E. Carroll, an attorney representing the city, said he was pleased with the ruling, saying Lexington officials were confident it didn’t violate any constitutional rights.

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