I’m no fan of the Confederate flag. It started its life as the flag of slave-owning traitors and it now lives as a symbol that rests comfortably next to the nazi swastika.
Nevertheless, the First Amendment is there to protect speech that we don’t like — not speech we like.
I have to, therefore, side with Mr. Bobby Tillett. Tillett works at a BJ’s warehouse in Jacksonville, Florida and drives a camouflage pickup truck with a confederate flag flying over it. His employer told him that he had to get rid of it, or he couldn’t park in the company parking lot.
Tillett refused to back down, so he parks a half mile away and walks to the store now. (CNN video)
Constitutionally and legally, BJ’s is right. The parking lot is private property, and the property owner can dictate what happens in its parking lot.
However, I am uncomfortable with the fact that our First Amendment rights lose any potency once private property is involved – as long as the speech is not of a favored variety. If Mr. Tillett had a crucifix on his car, and BJ’s treated him the same way, BJ’s would be paying out a nice fat discrimination award. You can’t claim “private property” as a defense to racial discrimination, but our most cherished freedom can be washed away with a bill of sale?
I hate what Mr. Tillett believes in. I admire him for standing up for it.