‘Backyard redneck’ seeks reinstatement
It appears to be a case of free speech colliding head-on with political correctness. The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a school bus driver in Oregon who was fired for displaying — on his personal vehicle — a Confederate flag with the word "redneck" printed across it
Twenty-eight-year-old Kenneth Webber was fired in March after he refused to remove the Confederate flag from his truck, which was parked on school property. The school superintendent cited a policy "about displaying symbols on school property that were racist, or had a potential to be seen as racist."
But John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, says he has personally talked to Webber and is convinced the bus driver is not a racist. "There is a certain element in the population that’s proud to be ‘redneck,’" the attorney acknowledges. "In fact, his father gave him this as a birthday present."
Whitehead says Webber told him that in the same parking lot, other vehicles displaying bumper stickers with various political viewpoints were not called into question. The attorney contends the case boils down to a free-speech issue.
"The question is, can you [single] out one form of speech and discriminate against it?" Whitehead explains. "And what the courts have called that is ‘viewpoint discrimination.’"
Webber has described himself as a "backyard redneck," according to a Rutherford press release. "I work for what I have. I support my family. It’s just who I am. I’m a redneck. It’s a way of life."
The Rutherford Institute has filed an amended First Amendment lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Oregon. Webber has a strong case, adds Whitehead, whose group is asking that the driver be rehired and paid for lost wages.