A federal court has ruled that a resolution in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania, prohibiting the display of an American flag with a thin blue line on all township property is unconstitutional. The ruling about the flag that's also used as part of the police union’s logo came down Monday.
Prohibiting the use of the Thin Blue Line flag restricts the free speech of public employees under the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Karen Marston decided, NBC Philadelphia reports.
“The Township repeatedly suggests that the Thin Blue Line American Flag is of limited, if any, public value or concern because it is ‘offensive’ and ‘racist,’” Marston wrote in the court opinion. “But as this Court previously told the Township, ‘the First Amendment protects speech even when it is considered 'offensive.''"
The police officers who brought the lawsuit, along with the statewide police union, argued that the flag is a “show of support” for law enforcement, representing “the preservation of the rule of law, the protection of peace and freedom, the sacrifice of fallen law enforcement officers and the dedication of law enforcement office(r)s,” according to the court opinion.
The court sided with the officers, saying that the township failed to demonstrate “real, not conjectural, harm” by using the flag and that the ban “addresses that harm in a direct and material way.”