Snow Penises and Other Abominations

March 29, 2006 at 11:15pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Michael Cornelius wrote a letter to the editor today expressing disagreement with LPD officers’ decisions to destroy a few lewd snow sculptures. Mr. Cornelius wraps up:

The Constitution ensures for us the rights to free expression and due process. We shouldn’t abridge these rights just because the snow might melt before we can do something about it.

One “Allen T”, in comments on the Lincoln Journal Star website, retorts:

Not all speech receives the same level of protection under the Constitution. ... Lewd snow sculptures were likely against an ordinance against public display, in plain view of children, of obscene or offensive speech.

That is all true, but it is also beside the point. The important part of Mr. Cornelius’s contention, as I understand it, was not that giant penis sculptures are unregulatable protected speech, but that the destruction of those sculptures without any concern for the “artists’” or property owners’ due process rights was improper. Mr. Cornelius never said “We should all be able to have giant snow penises in our yards”. Instead, his point is that if Joe Blow chooses to put a giant snow penis in his yard, Joe Blow is entitled to let the courts decide if that snow penis is protected speech before it is destroyed by the government.

From a practical standpoint the officers chose a reasonable course of action. But from a rights point of view, the officers acted improperly. The destruction of property located on private property is illegal, and the act is especially obnoxious when it is conducted by officers sworn to uphold rights, not violate them. The officers had legal tools available to them (persuading the “artists” to destroy or alter their work and/or ticketing the “artists”). And if the “artists” wanted to dispute the labeling of their work as obscene? Well, that’s what the courts are for. Rights are rights, and Lincoln’s police officers need to respect them, even when dealing with the maturity-challenged.

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