Coincidentally, on March 23, the Supreme Court will hear a case that raises just this issue. This case, out of neighboring Texas, involves a group whose design for a specialty license plate was denied because it included a Confederate flag.
Although the Lone Star State recognizes April as Confederate History Month and spends January 19 celebrating Confederate Heroes Day, it would spare its citizens in this one context the sight of a flag it otherwise venerates: Texas has empowered its Department of Motor Vehicles to prevent people from being offended.
Yet even if the DMV knows better than anyone exactly what it takes to offend, it pursues its mission—the righteous task of ensuring that no motorist has to endure a half‐second of micro-aggression—in a half‐hearted way. Just consider the plate designs it has let slip by its censorious filter.
The “Boy Scouts” plate undoubtedly ruffles the feathers of those who consider that group to be an anti‐gay menace. The “Choose Life” plate similarly unnerves those who think that its message slanders women who choose abortion. What about “Come and Take It” (with a picture of a cannon) or “Fight Terrorism”? These messages would insult pacifists and those who disagree with U.S. foreign policy even if “Turn the Other Cheek” or “Come Home America” tags were also available. “Mighty Fine Burger” and “Dr Pepper” surely offend Michael Bloomberg’s acolytes. Many Apache, Comanche, or Kiowa would take offense at a good ol’ boy driving around with a “Native Texan” plate. And wouldn’t a PETA supporter have a (soy) beef with the “Texas Trophy Hunters Association” plate? Finally, any true Texan would find the University of Oklahoma plate to be beyond the pale even before this month’s scandal.