It is unfortunate that the University of Kansas appears to have bowed to pure political pressure in its display of the art installation, “Untitled (Flag 2).”  You do not need to like the art, or agree with the political sentiments it expresses, or even believe that it expresses any political idea at all to recognize that the artwork is protected by the First Amendment. 

While the university has the right to display the art installation anywhere it chooses, the decision to move the artwork based on criticism from government officials (including the governor and secretary of state) and some unspecified public safety need smacks of censorship.  The elected officials in question, including Gov. Colyer and Sec. Kobach, have been very clear that they want the art censored because of the political statement it makes, and the way in which it makes that statement.  That is an affront to the spirit of the First Amendment, and the values for which the flag stands. 

Those values include the right to free expression, and not to have views suppressed or censored simply because they are unpopular or make someone uncomfortable.  Even though Gov. Colyer and Sec. Kobach seem unwilling to respect the spirit of the First Amendment, the ACLU will continue to defend the right of all Americans to produce artwork to express themselves – whether that art takes the form of a flag with symbols on it as in this case, or a jeep plastered with a modified form of the American flag to make a political statement about gun rights.  We wish that our state’s elected officials would join us in actually defending the Constitution for everyone, not just those who support their political views.

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