I have written derisively of using town dollars to defend a hands-free cell phone ban (when the town was even on notice it wouldn’t hold up in court).  The notion that it can be handled by attorneys already paid by the town made no difference to me because their salaries are still town dollars (tax $ = my $) and I have to believe there are other important issues awaiting legal attention on my dime.  

Well, it seems we may just be approaching one of those.  And it’s just a small thing… I can’t remember what it’s called.  What a minute…. something free…. no… “Free something…….  I’ve got it:  Free Speech.  

It’s quite likely you’re reading this thinking that’s a great use of tax dollars:  defending free speech.  Well, you may be disappointed to find out Chapel Hill is on the receiving end of a reminder about First Amendment rights.  The reminder comes from the American Civil Liberties Union and is about some controversial bus advertisements.

The ads were about U.S. military aid to Israel. As a recovering journalist, I can tell you there are two topics in the U.S. that if you cover them in any way, every single person reading/listening/watching will assume you’re biased.  One of them is Israel.*  And that assumption of bias occurs when you’ve tried to be as absolutely evenhanded as possible.  In the case of the bus ads, there is a definite point of view.  The sponsoring church wants to end U.S. military aid to Israel.  So, a lightning rod subject with a definite point of view on the far end of one of the many spectrums in this multi-layered debate.  No question, these ads were going to stir up a reaction.

The ads came down due to a technicality in the small print.  If that sounds redundant, this is one of the few times I’ll defend my writing:  It was a technical requirement that certain information be printed on the ad (all ads) that wasn’t included on these.  

Despite the respite for the town in having a real reason to duck the controversy, it rages on.  

While passionate people are debating the importance of Israel and the U.S. role in the region, I feel I’m watching a magician impeccably trained in the art of misdirection. There is plenty to debate about all aspects of the U.S. and every corner of the Middle East but it is our right to do so that is really in question here.  

The right to express an opinion is why we’re all (I hope) voting in a few weeks and savoring the ability to do so.  The right to disagree with an ad on a bus?  That’s an absolute luxury folks, and one we should be embracing, not curtailing. 

Disagree with me?  Celebrate your right to do so by leaving a comment below, and remember, courtesy and civility are adequate vehicles for all opinions- even very strong ones!  Prefer to address me directly?  Write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com

*The other, I’m sure you’ve guessed, is abortion.