EDITORIAL: Southington council should consider limits on statues as well as flags

Republicans on Southington’s Town Council recently passed an ordinance that restricts flags on municipal grounds to government, military and school flags. The expressed aim is to put an end to lengthy and distracting debates about the suitability of flags. The three Democrats on the council opposed the measure.

It might seem it was a wise decision after the Supreme Court ruled against Boston in a case Southington officials had been watching. The court decided Boston violated free speech rights by refusing a request to fly a Christian flag on a flagpole outside City Hall. But, as the Record-Journal’s Jesse Buchanan reported, both sides of the Southington debate saw support for their positions in the Supreme Court decision.

Republican Councilor William Dziedzic told the R-J  Southington’s flag ordinance was a way of avoiding those free speech violations. “It affirmed our ordinance and our good governing,” he said.

Democratic Councilor Val DePaolo saw things differently. “I would have liked to see the ordinance committee come up with an ordinance that would have benefited flags flying as symbols for a lot of different groups,” she said. “We could have done that.”

A disappointing result is that the rainbow flag will not fly for the town’s Pride celebrations, at least not on town property. The council had been unanimous in supporting the Pride celebration a year ago and could have continued to show support by allowing the Pride flag to fly again this year. Now it’s hard not to see a lack of approval in the town’s unwillingness to allow that.

In 2020, Republicans on the council voted to keep a bust of Christopher Columbus in front of the John Weichsel Municipal Center, rejecting a proposal to move it from public grounds. DePaolo put forth the motion to remove the statue. “I felt like there were so many people in our community who spoke from their heart,” she said. “When they see that statue, it means prejudice and oppression and racism.”

In light of its recent vote on flags, the council may now want to reconsider whether it’s appropriate to continue to allow an expression of support of Columbus, a most controversial figure, on municipal grounds, or be prepared to defend why controversy is OK for statues but not flags. 

It may come in handy the next time someone wants to put up a statue.



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