On August 15th, CIR filed suit on behalf of California artist Timothy Desmond against officials in charge of the Big Fresno Fair. Those officials refused to allow Desmond’s painting, which depicted a Civil War battle scene, to be displayed in the fair’s art show because it included a rendering of the Confederate flag. Officials relied on a 2014 California statute that prohibits state agencies from displaying the Confederate battle flag.
While state officials have latitude to restrict the state’s own speech — including the state’s display of flags — the First Amendment limits the state’s authority to prohibit private individuals from displaying the Confederate flag in circumstances like an art show, where it is clear that the state is not endorsing the content or message of any of the paintings displayed by individual artists.
Desmond is asking the Court to enjoin California state officials from enforcing the flag ban against private speech in violation of the First Amendment.