In another awful example of government intrusion upon First Amendment freedoms, the state of Michigan is defending its rejection of an anti-war license plate, saying children riding in cars and playing in their yards need to be protected from seeing the words “WAR SUX.”
Attorneys for the Michigan secretary of state’s office asked a judge this month to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the applicant for the “WAR SUX” vanity plate that accuses officials of violating his First Amendment rights. Here’s the State of Michigan’s official position on this, as reported by the Houston Chronicle:
“[B]ecause vehicles often travel in residential neighborhoods, youth may be exposed to license plates from their yards or driveways,” said Ann Sherman, an assistant attorney general. “Courts have often upheld legislation aimed at protecting the physical and emotional well-being of youth, even where First Amendment rights are concerned.”
You’ve gotta be kidding me. First, do license plates even rank on the list of threats to kids who play in their front yards? Isn’t the real concern that our kids will be abducted by child predators or shot by an errant bullet? But license plates (and an anti-war license plate at that)? Come on. Really?
Even putting that aside, let’s get this straight – the State of Michigan’s position is that so long as some idiot bureaucrat finds a particular expressive communication to be offensive and potentially visible to “youth”, the State can squash it on the pretense that doing so is necessary to protect the “physical and emotional well-being of youth”? What’ll they crack down on next? Bumper stickers? And after that? Jehovah’s Witnesses? People who go door to door gathering signatures on a political candidate’s ballot petition? Where does it end?
The Wolverine State might as well break out the gulags, because under for which it advocates, no kind of expression would be safe and the State’s power would be virtually limitless. But that, of course, might be precisely what the State wants.