In Hayden, Idaho, one family has a unique way of spreading the holiday cheer . . . or fear. A family has displayed a Klansman snowman with a dangling noose in front of their home and neighbors are calling for action to remove the offensive display.
The owner, named only as “Mark” is reportedly a white supremacist who displays both Aryan Nation and SS flags. He allegedly passed out bullets last Halloween. He insisted that he only handed out bullet casings . . . “and only did so after he ran out of candy.”
To make matters worse, Mark lives only 100 yards from an elementary school.
The case raises a long-standing dispute over the criminalization of hateful symbols. Police told Mark that he is in violation of a law prohibiting such hanging of nooses. The noose is gone now and the pointed hat has been knocked off. Leaving just a snowman.
However, what remains is a free speech question. Civil libertarians have long argued that such symbols cannot be criminalized under the First Amendment — despite rulings of the Supreme Court such as Black v. Virginia upholding prosecutions for such things as cross burnings as inherently threatening. Presumably, he was allowed to have the KKK snowman, but the noose itself would be the basis for a prosecution. From a free speech perspective, individuals have a right to be hateful and unpopular. The concern is that such prohibitions not only curtail free speech but place citizens on a slippery slope where various symbols can be categorized as hate speech or conveying a hateful message.