by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
Yesterday I saw signs being put up on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. There’s nothing unusual about that. They’re long, narrow banners that adorn the lamp posts, and there are always a number of them around. I saw lots promoting the downtown farmer’s market, which kicks off this week, and some about commuting.
But these were promoting the Out Raleigh festival and the LGBT Center of Raleigh. And that got me thinking. So I looked up the funding for the Out Raleigh festival, and you know what I found? VisitRaleigh is a sponsor of the event, and VisitRaleigh is in turn supported by tax dollars.
It’s obvious to anyone who’s even sort-of been paying attention that something like Out Raleigh is controversial. It’s also highly political. There are a whole range of issues, from same-sex marriage to HB2, that have been hotly debated by legislators and lawyers. They’re campaign issues. Regardless of where one stands on any of this, it’s clear that this a political issue.
So I’m concerned about the City of Raleigh using tax dollars to support something like the Out Raleigh festival. Doesn’t that, in effect, mean that every resident of Raleigh who pays those taxes is being forced to support a particular political agenda? And we know for sure that people passionately disagree with each other about this particular issue, so shouldn’t the city stay out of it?
I’m not saying they shouldn’t allow the festival. Rights of speech and assembly are enshrined in our constitution. Even more importantly, as our Declaration of Independence states clearly, we are endowed with those rights by our Creator. Those aren’t rights that should be taken away. I think it’s fair enough for Raleigh to grant the relevant permits and such.
But freedom OF speech also requires freedom FROM speech, in that no citizen should be required to support with his tax dollars a political agenda to which he objects. Raleigh should not be using taxpayers’ money to financially support this or any other festival that supports a particular political agenda. Raleigh and other local governments should be more careful about this sort of thing.