From Seattle writer and consultant Matt Rosenberg...

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Welcome, Nazi Volunteers!

February 04, 2005

You probably already know that Nazis can exercise their free speech rights by marching in public, among other things. But if the Oregon-based American Nazi Party volunteers - like other organizations - to pick up roadside trash in Marion County, Oregon; is the county government required to accept their offer and post the customary roadside signs credting the organization responsible for trash pick-up on the designated stretch of pavement?

The county thought so, and did so. But outraged local residents took down the signs. The Oregonian weighs in here (quick, free, 3-step reg. req.) with an editorial correctly observing that the county blew it: volunteering is an honor, not a right.

How hard should it be to decide the honor won't be bestowed on Nazis?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at February 4, 2005 05:27 PM

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Right conclusion, Matt, but wrong argument. The right/privilege distinction in constitutional law broke down years ago.

Nobody has a "right" to public employment, to take just one example, but it does not follow from this that the State may pick and choose among applicants for a "privilege" of employment based upon its approval or disapproval of how the applicants are excercising their constitutional rights (such as free speech).

Same logic applies here. How is the State empowered to "honor" some groups, but not others, based upon its approval of what they say or believe?

The original mistake was the assumption that hate speech is a First Amendment right. Once you grant that, I'm afraid you and Oregon don't get to decide who should be "honored" with public service tasks, so long as they perform the same service as other "honorees."

Posted by: Tom Rekdal at February 4, 2005 07:26 PM

I have no problem with the Nazis getting this chance. I also have no trouble with Americans dealing with it as Americans should--stealing the sign and trashing the road. If the Nazis don't clean it up, then they should be prosecuted. I posted thoughts on a similar situation a while ago:

Posted by: Timothy at February 4, 2005 09:24 PM

Not speaking to whether Marion County should or shouldn't have, it was pointed out on a Portland talk radio show by someone familiar with the adopt-a-road program that the group must pay for the sign. That includes any necessary repair or replacement, at something like $2,500 a pop.

The sign was missing within two days of hitting the news. If the ANP wasn't it replaced, they'll have to put up another $2,500. And unless they want to post guards, that might last them another day. And I don't think Marion County will do too much investigation of the "thefts".

So the good citizens of Marion County don't need to trash the roadway. Besides, with the signs "stolen", people wouldn't blame the ANP anyway.

Posted by: north clark county at February 5, 2005 07:51 AM

Great arguement TR!, well put!

Posted by: Tinwhistler at February 5, 2005 09:40 AM

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