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SD Libertarian Leaders Disavow Gubernatorial Candidate’s Planned Flag Burning

Some Libertarians apparently read my blog as attentively as Democrats do. Following my post about their candidates, their convention, and the apparent harm that angry “dad’s rights” extremist and purported candidate for governor CJ Abernathey may do to their brand by burning a gold-fringed “Admiralty Law” flag, Libertarian District 30 Senate candidate Gideon Oakes sent me a copy of this press release from LPSD leaders Aaron Aylward and Richard Shelatz:

The Libertarian Party of South Dakota wishes to clarify that CJ Abernathey’s planned event on July 17 is an independent demonstration, and it is neither sponsored by nor associated with the LPSD. Furthermore, the executive board hereby releases this statement on the matter:

The LPSD has always respected and fought for the individual right of free speech and expression. The founders of our country saw fit to place freedom of speech at the very top of the Bill of Rights, and something which separates us from many other countries is that this freedom extends to those who use their voice to disagree with the government. We support the right of all citizens to free speech, even for those who feel the need to demonstrate by burning the flag.

But now it’s time for the LPSD Executive Board to use our own freedom of speech. As Libertarians, we love and cherish the United States of America, the U.S. Constitution, and the symbols and emblems which represent them. We understand that Mr. Abernathey is attempting to differentiate between “Old Glory” and gold-fringed flags which supposedly represent admiralty law and a suspension of constitutional freedoms. To this end, we respect his right to hold this opinion and bring it to the public’s attention, but we condemn the manner of expressing it.

To burn a flag — gold-fringed or not — dredges up many painful images of those who hate America and seek its destruction. We’re relatively certain that Mr. Abernathey, a former U.S. Marine, does not hate our country. But by throwing an emblem with 50 stars and 13 stripes into a burn barrel, one cannot help but feel a grin of satisfaction from those who do.

In America, your free speech is guaranteed. But you are not free from criticism and disagreement. And on this matter, we disagree.

Aylward and Shelatz appear to have punched up the press release on a Sunday morning, on Easter, no less. Who says Libertarians can’t get organized and get things done?

And this critique is no sleepy or chocolate-egg-stained draft. Without personal insult or rancor, the LPSD execs express a coherent Libertarian message, properly defending the First Amendment (flag-burning is protected speech) while expressing their own distaste for a specific message. They distance their party from one declared candidate’s unpopular message while avoiding any improper intrusion on their party’s nomination process (notice that they don’t even mention his candidacy). They only glancingly hint at the nuttiness of Abernathey’s fringe flag theory (“…attempting to differentiate between ‘Old Glory’ and gold-fringed flags which supposedly represent admiralty law…”) and focus instead on the core of the issue: This guy’s burning a flag. He has a right to do so, but we don’t like it.

Well said, Libertarians! Now, who’s your second gubernatorial candidate?

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