Monkeying with the 1st Amendment


~LM Ruhland, MCPP intern

Jim Voorheis, a Montrose businessman, remains unimpressed by the two major parties’ presumptive presidential candidates.  His sign company has a big LED display outside, and he thought he’d express his disappointment by flashing pictures of both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain along with a perplexed-looking chimpanzee.  Unfortunately for Jim Voorheis, some city officials think the sign is offensive and contains racial insults that could be aimed at either candidate.   (Obama’s father was from Kenya; McCain’s youngest daughter was adopted from Bangladesh.)

A member of the city commission filed a complaint about the sign, and the city manager wrote the Michigan Department of Transportation in hopes of intervention.  According to the Flint Journal, the letter stated that “[t]he insulting racial slur overtones and connotations of this series of electronic billboard image of flashing displays is quite clear to people who are astute in civic affairs and therefore are upsetting to many citizens in the City of Montrose community.”

“Is the Montrose sign showing images of Obama, McCain and a chimp racist?” is today’s Flint Journal poll.  As of 9:30 this morning, about 89% agreed that “Yes, it’s an outrage.”  Only 11% maintained that it was speech protected by the 1st Amendment.  When Mlive commenter gradylikesr pointed out that the sign is protected as satire, user metroual had the following to say (emphasis mine):

where are getting your info? posting a sign is not necessarily anyone’s right under our constitution. someone posts something obnoxious and one states the constitution and or ammendments. it is not always the case. freedom of speech is protected. it is protected by both sides. this MAN is acting immature, moron-like. what he is displaying is not NECESSARILY protected. please, do your homework.

I admit to slacking off in 10th-grade civics class, but I don’t remember any homework that taught me that.

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One thought on “Monkeying with the 1st Amendment

  1. I’m shocked that the city authorities would admit that they think there is some resemblance between chimpanzees and people who were born in Bangladesh or whose fathers were born in Kenya.

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