The Temple City Council decided Thursday to delay a decision on allowing the city’s unit of the NAACP to fly a flag recognizing Juneteenth later this month.
The Council, which made the decision during their regular workshop meeting, cited the need to develop an overall plan on how to handle requests by organizations to use city property for events or recognitions.
Mayor Tim Davis said he and the other Council members might agree with a certain event or cause but the city will need to develop rules before allowing anyone to fly a flag at City Hall.
“I think that what we need to do right now before we allow this Juneteenth flag is to take some time and formulate a good policy around what is shown on public property across the city,” Davis said. “It is our responsibility as the City Council and city government to formulate a good policy around that to take into consideration both emotional considerations and legal considerations.”
Juneteenth — celebrated in Texas annually — commemorates June 19, 1865, when Texas received word of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery — more than two years after the document went into effect.
City Manager Brynn Myers said governments need to allow freedom of expression in public forums and the flying of one group’s flag would open up the possibility to anyone.
Myers said the city currently is working on a community partnership and advertising policy to help determine who the city will and won’t work with on public material. She cited other mediums such as the city’s Channel 10 television station.
“Generally speaking, as a government, we have to make what is called content-neutral decisions when you are making decisions about expressive materials that are protected under the First Amendment,” Myers said. “What I mean by that is if you have to look at the material or listen to what is being said or what is being displayed to determine if it is allowed or not, that is not a content-neutral decision.”
Last month, the Killeen City Council rejected a similar request to fly a Juneteenth flag at its City Hall over concerns that it could open up allowing all flags such at LGBTQ flags and Confederate flags.
The NAACP-Killeen Branch spoke against the resolution, expressing concerns that it would open Pandora’s box and allow other groups to fly their flags at City Hall as well.
Myers directed city staff to work with Temple’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission to develop a policy recommendation that covers these public decisions. That panel hosted its first meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The City Council’s next meeting is June 17, two days before Juneteenth.