U.S. top court wrestles over Confederate flag license plate

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 23, 2015 11:36 AM

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday appeared conflicted over how to resolve a free speech dispute over whether the state of Texas was required to approve a specialty vehicle license plate that displays a Confederate battle flag.

Some of the nine justices raised questions about whether the state had a sound legal reason under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which guarantees free speech, for how it approved some plates but not others. The state declined to approve the specialty plate with the Confederate flag, to some an emblem of Southern pride and to others a symbol of racism.

But various members of the court appeared uneasy about the possibility of a ruling in favor of a group called the Sons of Confederate Veterans that would require the state to approve all messages, raising the prospect of plates promoting widely offensive messages such as support for the militant Islamist group al Qaeda.

The flag in question, a blue cross inlaid with white stars over a red background, was carried by troops who fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)