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Kate Murray's dangerous attack on free speech

Beachgoers along the South Shore were shocked and

Beachgoers along the South Shore were shocked and angered to see a plane overhead towing a banner with a swastika on it.

It's understandable that Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray wants the State Legislature to ban the display of swastikas. Which is not to say that it's sensible, or not a contradiction of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The International Raelians is a group that sees the swastika as a historically peaceful sign befouled by the Nazis and wants to rehabilitate the symbol. It recently hired a small aircraft to tow its swastika banner over ocean beaches in Queens and Nassau County. The group did it last year, too, as part of its "Swastika Rehabilitation Week" activities.

The Raelians believe that the swastika embedded in a Star of David is a sign of peace that represents the infinity of time and can be reclaimed as a positive symbol. The group also believes that aliens cloned life on Earth and sometimes return to visit. But that doesn't mean the group should be stymied.

Soon after the Raelians flew their banner, Murray, who is running for Nassau County district attorney, held a news conference to propose her new law, describing the Raelians' exercise of free speech as a "loophole."

State law already says it's illegal and a felony for anyone to display a swastika on public or private property without the permission of the owner. In other words, it's a form of vandalism granted a much tougher penalty than normal graffiti because of the ugliness of the symbol.

But what Murray wants is a new law that says no one can display a swastika -- on his or her own property, or on a sign pulled by a plane. That's a dangerous and improper attack on free speech, even if the symbol it attacks is one that society considers hateful.


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