Letter to the Editor:  Questioning the New Flag Policy

Submitted by Anthony Randazzo

A new flag and banner policy approved by our Select Board has put our first amendment rights into jeopardy. Bedford’s flag, Massachusetts’ flag, the US flag, and the POW/MIA flag will remain up which is great. However, the only other flags that will be displayed are those that “promote town values” according to The Bedford Citizen. This policy raises a very important question: What is a town value? 

From what I have observed and from what the members of the Select Board have actually said themselves, they support gay pride and the buzzwords diversity and inclusion. If those are town values, then Bedford values leftism. This just means that conservatives won’t have a say in which flags and banners are flown in the middle of Bedford.

Would Bedford allow the thin blue line police flag to fly in the center of town? Even if you aren’t a conservative, imagine if the roles were reversed. Let’s say hypothetically, that you’re living in Texas, and you wanted to fly a gay pride flag, but the town you’re living in only flies flags according to town values. Wouldn’t you also want your views reflected on the town’s pole? If you support free speech for all (true inclusion), I would suggest letting our Select Board know that we should only have the flags up that we flew before (non-controversial flags), or every flag should be flown including the ones the town government doesn’t deem a value of Bedford.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Chris Lennon
May 30, 2024 3:17 pm

The point of the policy is to make the flags and banners government speech rather than a public forum. As government speech the select board decides. As a public forum it’s open to anything. I think I would rather have our elected select board make those decisions rather than give free reign to anyone and anything. There are really crazy and offensive flags that could be put up as a public forum. Has Mr. Randazzo proposed his flag to the select board? They might surprise him.

May 31, 2024 5:10 pm
Reply to  Chris Lennon

Another point of the policy was to avoid what happened in Boston, where the Supreme Court found that the city had inappropriately rejected a request to fly an explicitly Christian flag over City Hall. The decision hinged on whether the city had a formal policy about which flags they would or would not allow. Town counsel over the course of several Select Board meetings gave the advice that we needed a formal policy. As I recall there really were only 3 choices:

  1. Allow any and all requests to fly flags/banners/etc. on town property
  2. Bar all requests from any group to share information
  3. Establish a body to determine which flags would be allowed on a case by case basis

Option 1 would have allowed the Nazi flag or flags with profanity.
Option 2 would have meant never allowing the Girl Scouts, Friends of the Library, the Garden Club, and other groups from posting signs, banners, sandwich boards, etc. on town property. Everyone would lose out on important information and recognition if that had been adopted.

The Select Board chose option 3 and will be the group that determines acceptability. Since they’re the people we elected to make town decisions for us, I don’t see the problem.

Ken Larson
May 30, 2024 12:11 pm

In Article 39.2 Sections 2, and 3 Paragraph F and H respectively of the Town’s sign by-law, any flag other than US Commonwealth or Town may be displayed at a residence or business without special permit. As I recall, this bylaw was enacted to limit the number of corporate flags flown at restaurants, fast food and other businesses. This statute has been ignored by the town since shortly after it was adopted For example Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds used to fly the Commonwealth flag next to the US flag at their establishments. I don’t know if either company secured a special permit to fly its company logo flag.
Residents must also apply for a special permit to fly a national flag other than the US, a Red Sox, Celtics, or any other sports team’s flag. A special permit is also required for flags wishing seasons greetings or other holiday message. As I read them, those strict rules are established for both residents and businesses.

“Town Values” is too vague a requirement to be met by residents or businesses. It’s also is too vague as a requirement for flags on Town of Bedford poles as well.
What rules are appropriate?

Chris Lennon
June 2, 2024 7:55 am
Reply to  Ken Larson

I think the vagueness of the policy for the Bedford flag poles is the point. The select board decides. We have input on whether they are doing a good job through the election process.
If Mr. Randazzo wants to put the Thin Blue Line flag there for a time he should put together a positive pitch of how it aligns with town values.
Pro tip: Don’t start by trying to divide us into boxes with labels like leftist and conservative. Start with points that bring us together.

Bruce Ribas
May 29, 2024 10:28 pm

Government overreaching yet again

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