This holiday season, as many as eight state capitols will be graced with a rainbow-festooned Festivus pole—a 6.5-foot-tall display crowned by a glittering disco ball. The pole was designed by Chaz Stevens, head of The Humanity Fund, a scrappy advocacy group that champions separation of church and state, free speech, and constitutional equality. Stevens hopes to place his display in Republican-dominated states—Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Michigan—as a protest against what he views as their support for lawsrespecting an establishment of religion.
Several states quickly agreed to display Stevens’ pole, which was wise: As I explained in 2014, the First Amendment bars the government from allowing some groups from expressing their beliefs on state grounds while excluding others based on their viewpoint. Once states allowed Christians and Jews to erect mangers and menorahs in capitol halls, they were constitutionally required to let Stevens display his own expressive symbol.