HILLSBOROUGH – Orange County is generally known as one of a handful of bastions for the political Left in the Old North State. Its county seat, Hillsborough, is, in turn, home to many people that reserve a right to be offended by anything that doesn’t comport to their enlightened progressive mindset. So now that a 20 feet x 20 feet Confederate battle flag has been raised on private property in clear view from a main thoroughfare, residents and town officials are scrambling to change the rules in order to have it removed.
“The mammoth flag flies high over U.S. 70 – a well-traveled highway through this liberal county, home to UNC-Chapel Hill, 10 yoga studios, three Weaver Street Market natural food stores and an alpaca farm.
Whether the flag will be allowed to remain may be determined by the Orange County Planning Board. The board is set to hear the public’s comments regarding proposed changes to sign rules May 15 at the Southern Human Services Center at 2501 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill.
The amendment to the unified development ordinance could prohibit flags over 24 square feet, flagpoles over 24 feet in height or flagpoles taller than a property owner’s main roof.
Additionally, flagpoles on residential property might be required to be set back at least 50 feet from property lines in Orange County.
County Attorney John Roberts has urged county leaders to approach the issue carefully. Rules that address the content of a flag or single out a particular flag could lead to a lawsuit.
A change would not immediately affect existing flags, Roberts has said, but those flags would have to comply with the rules later.
“The UDO amendment process being undertaken by the county will ensure that residents’ First Amendment protections are upheld while addressing the concerns of many in the community regarding our county continuing to be a welcoming and inclusive place for all people,” Hillsborough Town Commissioner Matt Hughes said Sunday.”
But despite the deep blue areas of Orange County such as Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, the surrounding areas are not nearly as prone to cringe and demand action at the sight of something that offends the more liberal sensibilities.
A rally was held in support of the flag bearer’s right to fly whichever flag he or she may want over their private property, spurring opposition protests.
Now, whether you subscribe to the argument that the Confederate flag is a mere sign of heritage (not hate), or instead find the boastful presentation of the flag as a ‘symbol of hate,’ in the end it is nothing more than an issue of individuals’ right to free speech and whether it is appropriate to curtail that right to protect people’s feelings.
Municipalities have all sorts of rules for property owners that place restrictions on their property, and people are free to move if they don’t like them. However, if the rules can be changed any time people are offended, how quickly does a community slide down a slippery slope and come to rest in a place where inalienable rights are violated?
The First Amendment was not spelled out to merely protect nice, commonly accepted, or pleasant speech. Rather, it was specifically included to protect an individual’s right to say even the most objectionable things, lest the State be used as a tool to enact a tyranny of the majority.
In a time that statues and flags are regarded by some as ‘oppressive,’ despite their inanimate nature, pushed a long my a Leftist media who all too willingly support the notion of ‘thought police,’ a cognizance the First Amendment’s true purpose is especially warranted.
Read more on the flag controversy here.