Once again the state of Georgia is in the national spotlight and once again it is not flattering.
The Georgia Department of revenue has approved the issuance of a new license plate that features two images of the Confederate flag.
The plate design was requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Supporters say the image of the flag is about heritage.
Detractors say the image celebrates a heritage that should not be celebrated by government.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the new plate is controversial.
You would have to have been buried under a rock for the past 150 years to not know.
Obviously, there is a larger debate about whether or not the image of the flag should be offensive.
However, there is no debate regarding whether or not a large portion of the population finds it offensive.
That is why Gov. Nathan Deal’s statements to the media about being unaware of the new license plate are so troubling.
We take him at his word that he did not know anything about it.
But, surely someone at some level during the vetting and approval process should have raised a red flag over the flag, at least alerting the administration about the coming controversy.
Some people will see this as a First Amendment issue.
But the debate that has apparently blindsided the governor’s administration is not over the rights of individuals to express themselves in whatever manner they determine to be appropriate, it is about the state endorsing, approving and selling it.
The whole notion of specialty license plates is curious at best.
The point of a license plate is to indicate that a vehicle is properly permitted to operate in Georgia.
Do the plates need to make any other statement than that?
If these specialty plates cost the state, then why are taxpayer monies being spent on such a novelty item?
If they are a money making proposition, generating new revenue above the normal cost of registering a vehicle, then, why is the state in a money-making enterprise to begin with?
The debate here should go beyond whether or not any individual or groups of individuals find the Confederate battle flag offensive.
Rather, it should be a debate about the role of government as it pertains to individual expression.
While government should never squelch the freedom of expression, should it promote a particular ideology, especially one that will most likely offend about half of the state’s population?
So, once again, Georgia is in the national spotlight.
The citizens of Georgia have every right to express how they feel about the state’s image.
Regardless of how you feel about the flag, this flag flap is just unnecessary.
— Editor Jim Zachary