#SIULAW Associate Dean Steve Macias discusses first amendment issues with local ABC affiliate, WSIL TV3, about a controversial flag in Marion, IL

October 09, 2020 , Denise Turner | WSIL TV3


MARION, Ill. (WSIL) -- As we inch closer to the presidential election, voters are sharing their opinions on who should lead our country for the next four years, and they're not just doing it on the internet.

News 3 spoke with a Marion woman, who is getting push back for the way she is expressing her opinion of one of the candidates.

She's chosen to continue to put a political view on display outside of her home, even though it could get her fined by the city.

A flag in her yard is causing growing controversy.

Resident Ashley Marshall said, Thursday morning, an official from the city stopped by and asked her to remove the flag, saying they received a complaint about it. According to Marshall, she quickly said no to the official.

"I believe it's violating my first amendment rights because if you drive through town, you see flags that say, Trump no more, profanity so what's the difference in a Trump flag that has profanity and mine that's against Trump," said Marshall.

Marion's Chief of Staff, Cody Moake, told News 3 he believes Marshall is violating Marion's city code which states, "It unlawful to expose to public view any obscene, lewd or indecent word."

Steven Macias, Associate Dean and Associate Professor School of Law at Southern Illinois University said that in general, when it comes to freedom of speech, political speech receives the highest level of protection under our first amendment. Macias said there are a few categories that are not protected by the first amendment, but he doesn't believe that applies to this situation.

"The court developed its obscenity jurisprudence in the 1970's, and it really hasn't been upgraded since then. This sort of thing would unlikely be considered obscene is limited to material in the sexual and I don't think anyone could legitimately argue that this flag has anything to do with sex," said Macias.

The city hasn't chosen to take action against Marshall yet, but if they do move forward, fines start at $25 per day, until the violation is corrected.