Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) hands Karen Cullen, the widow of Viriginia State Police Lt. Jay Cullen, the flag during a funeral service in Chesterfield, Va., on Aug. 19. Her husband was killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring a white-nationalist protest in Charlottesville. (Alexa Welch Edlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch via Associated Press)

Regarding the Aug. 23 Metro article “Crisis vaults McAuliffe into spotlight”:

It is outrageous for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to assert that the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia bears some responsibility for the violence in Charlottesville. The city’s decision to revoke the permit for Jason Kessler to hold a rally in Emancipation Park was a prior restraint on free speech. The Supreme Court said prior restraint is “the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

Prior restraint can be justified only if government places reasonable limitations on the time, place and manner of the speech. It was the city’s burden to show that revoking the permit for Emancipation Park and granting a permit for McIntire Park met these standards. The federal court said the city failed to do so.

The ACLU finds Mr. Kessler’s views loathsome. To suggest that Mr. Kessler’s speech was not entitled to First Amendment protection would eviscerate the First Amendment. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. reaffirmed: The idea that the government may restrict “speech expressing ideas that offend . . . strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’ ”

David A. Drachsler, Alexandria

The writer is a member of the Litigation
Screening Committee of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Virginia.