By Cameron Rasmusson
Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in.
It seems we just can’t stop arguing about the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag, better known as the Confederate flag. The latest uproar centers on District 1 Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, who posted a Facebook photo on July 25 of her proudly displaying the flag along with three American flags. The photo is accompanied by the caption, “Protecting and promoting our freedom of speech is an honor.”
Apparently, the picture was taken at the Timber Days celebration in Priest River. However, the post went unnoticed until the Spokesman-Review published a news story this week, which touched off yet another blaze of Internet arguments about what the flag really represents.
Scott didn’t return our calls requesting a comment. However, she defended her display of the flag to the Spokesman-Review in much the same terms as her Facebook post.
“We see it as a symbol of free speech,” she said.
“I’m sure some people find an American flag offensive, right?” she added. “There’s people that burn it, there’s people that disrespect it. I will never kill someone’s freedom of speech.”
However, Idaho’s history with the Confederate flag is remarkably touchy for a state that didn’t even exist during the Civil War. The flag was a common sight along with the Nazi swastika during North Idaho’s battles with white supremacist factions that sought to establish local footholds.
Tony Stewart of the Kootenai County Human Rights Task Force told the Spokesman-Review he remembers when Aryan Nations member Richard Butler paraded the streets of Coeur d’Alene in 2004, displaying the Confederate flag and Nazi swastikas while dragging behind him the flag of Israel.
“We find it very unfortunate that any political leader would send such a message to their constituents that would be so highly offended or hurt by that symbol,” said Stewart
More recently, the flag was a common sight at Shaun Winkler’s North Idaho compound. In 2012, Winkler attempted to continue Butler’s white supremacist efforts in North Idaho, capping off his labors with a run for the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office in 2012.
“Hate speech is protected under the First Amendment,” said Stewart. “But we also would really, really encourage people not to do that, because it doesn’t move us forward towards equality. It resurfaces a form of discrimination.”
The Bonner County Human Rights Task Force agrees with its colleagues in Coeur d’Alene.
“We agree with Mr. Stewart that freedom is protected under the First Amendment,” said organization president Lynn Bridges. “We also agree that the Confederate flag represents far more than freedom of speech for many in the U.S.”
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