Walker v. Tex. Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.,
576 U.S. ___ (2015)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Opinion (Stephen G. Breyer)  | 
  • Dissent (Samuel A. Alito, Jr.)

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

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No. 14–144

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JOHN WALKER, III, CHAIRMAN, TEXAS DEPARTMENTOF MOTOR VEHICLES BOARD, et al., PETITIONERS v. TEXAS DIVISION, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS, INC., et al.

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit

[June 18, 2015]

Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.

Texas offers automobile owners a choice between ordinary and specialty license plates. Those who want the State to issue a particular specialty plate may propose a plate design, comprising a slogan, a graphic, or (most commonly) both. If the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board approves the design, the State will make it available for display on vehicles registered in Texas.

In this case, the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans proposed a specialty license plate design featuring a Confederate battle flag. The Board rejected the proposal. We must decide whether that rejection violated the Constitution’s free speech guarantees. See Amdts. 1, 14. We conclude that it did not.

I

A

Texas law requires all motor vehicles operating on the State’s roads to display valid license plates. See Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §§502.001 (West Supp. 2014), 504.001 (2013), 504.943 (Supp. 2014). And Texas makes available several kinds of plates. Drivers may choose to display the State’s general-issue license plates. See Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Motor Vehicle Registration Manual 9.1 (Apr. 2015). Each of these plates contains the word“Texas,” a license plate number, a silhouette of theState, a graphic of the Lone Star, and the slogan“The Lone Star State.” Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles, The Texas Classic FAQs (July 16, 2012), online at http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/license-plates (all Internet materials as visited June 16, 2015, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file). In the alternative, drivers may choose from an assortment of specialty license plates. §504.008(b) (West 2013). Each of these plates contains the word “Texas,” a license plate number, and one of a selection of designs prepared by the State. See ibid.; Specialty License Plates, http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/license-plates/specialty-license-plates (displaying available Texas specialty plates); Create a Plate: Your Design, http://www.myplates.com/BackgroundOnly (same). Finally, Texas law provides for personalized plates (also knownas vanity plates). 43 Tex. Admin. Code §217.45(c)(7) (2015). Pursuant to the personalization program, a vehicle owner may request a particular alphanumeric pattern for use as a plate number, such as “BOB” or “TEXPL8.”

Here we are concerned only with the second category of plates, namely specialty license plates, not with the personalization program. Texas offers vehicle owners a va-riety of specialty plates, generally for an annual fee. See §217.45(b)(2). And Texas selects the designs for specialty plates through three distinct processes.

First, the state legislature may specifically call for the development of a specialty license plate. See Tex. Transp. Code §§504.602–504.663 (West 2013 and Supp. 2014). The legislature has enacted statutes authorizing, for example, plates that say “Keep Texas Beautiful” and “Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” plates that “honor” the Texas citrus industry, and plates that feature an image of the World Trade Center towers and the words “Fight Terrorism.” See §§504.602, 504.608, 504.626, 504.647.

Second, the Board may approve a specialty plate design proposal that a state-designated private vendor hascreated at the request of an individual or organization. See §§504.6011(a), 504.851(a); 43 Tex. Admin. Code §217.52(b). Among the plates created through the private-vendor process are plates promoting the “Keller Indians” and plates with the slogan “Get it Sold with RE/MAX.”

Third, the Board “may create new specialty license plates on its own initiative or on receipt of an application from a” nonprofit entity seeking to sponsor a specialty plate. Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §§504.801(a), (b). A nonprofit must include in its application “a draft design of the specialty license plate.” 43 Tex. Admin. Code §217.45(i)(2)(C). And Texas law vests in the Board authority to approve or to disapprove an application. See §217.45(i)(7). The relevant statute says that the Board “may refuse to create a new specialty license plate” for a number of reasons, for example “if the design might be offensive to any member of the public . . . or for any other reason established by rule.” Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §504.801(c). Specialty plates that the Board has sanctioned through this process include plates featuring the words “The Gator Nation,” together with the Florida Gators logo, and plates featuring the logo of Rotary International and the words “SERVICE ABOVE SELF.”

B

In 2009, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Texas Division (a nonprofit entity), applied to sponsor a specialty license plate through this last-mentioned process. SCV’s application included a draft plate design. See Appendix, infra. At the bottom of the proposed plate were the words “SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS.” At the side was the organization’s logo, a square Confederate battle flag framed by the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans 1896.” A faint Confederate battle flag appeared in the back-ground on the lower portion of the plate. Additionally,in the middle of the plate was the license plate number, and at the top was the State’s name and silhouette. The Board’s predecessor denied this application.

In 2010, SCV renewed its application before the Board. The Board invited public comment on its website and at an open meeting. After considering the responses, including a number of letters sent by elected officials who opposed the proposal, the Board voted unanimously against issuing the plate. The Board explained that it had found “it necessary to deny th[e] plate design application, specifically the confederate flag portion of the design, because public comments ha[d] shown that many members of the general public find the design offensive, and because such comments are reasonable.” App. 64. The Board added “that a significant portion of the public associate the confederate flag with organizations advocating expressions of hate directed toward people or groups that is demeaning to those people or groups.” Id., at 65.

In 2012, SCV and two of its officers (collectively SCV) brought this lawsuit against the chairman and members of the Board (collectively Board). SCV argued that the Board’s decision violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, and it sought an injunction requiring the Board to approve the proposed plate design. The District Court entered judgment for the Board. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed. Texas Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., v. Vandergriff, 759 F. 3d 388 (2014). It held that Texas’s specialty license plate designs are private speech and that the Board, in refusing to approve SCV’s design, engaged in constitutionally forbidden viewpoint discrimination. The dissenting judge argued that Texas’s specialty license plate designs are government speech, the content of which the State is free to control.

We granted the Board’s petition for certiorari, and we now reverse.

II

When government speaks, it is not barred by the Free Speech Clause from determining the content of what it says. Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U. S. 460 –468 (2009). That freedom in part reflects the fact that it is the democratic electoral process that first and foremost provides a check on government speech. See Board of Regents of Univ. of Wis. System v. Southworth, 529 U. S. 217, 235 (2000) . Thus, government statements (and government actions and programs that take the form of speech) do not normally trigger the First Amendment rules designed to protect the marketplace of ideas. See Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Assn., 544 U. S. 550, 559 (2005) . Instead, the Free Speech Clause helps produce informed opinions among members of the public, who are then able to influence the choices of a government that, through words and deeds, will reflect its electoral mandate. See Stromberg v. California, 283 U. S. 359, 369 (1931) (observing that “our constitutional system” seeks to maintain “the opportunity for free political discussion to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people”).

Were the Free Speech Clause interpreted otherwise, government would not work. How could a city government create a successful recycling program if officials, when writing householders asking them to recycle cans and bottles, had to include in the letter a long plea from the local trash disposal enterprise demanding the contrary? How could a state government effectively develop programs designed to encourage and provide vaccinations, if officials also had to voice the perspective of those who oppose this type of immunization? “[I]t is not easy to imagine how government could function if it lacked th[e] freedom” to select the messages it wishes to convey. Summum, supra, at 468.

We have therefore refused “[t]o hold that the Government unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of viewpoint when it chooses to fund a program dedicated to advance certain permissible goals, because the program in advancing those goals necessarily discourages alternative goals.” Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U. S. 173, 194 (1991) . We have pointed out that a contrary holding “would render numerous Government programs constitutionally suspect.” Ibid. Cf. Keller v. State Bar of Cal., 496 U. S. 1 –13 (1990) (“If every citizen were to have a right to insist that no one paid by public funds express a view with which he disagreed, debate over issues of great concern to the public would be limited to those in the private sector, and the process of government as we know it radically transformed”). And we have made clear that “the government can speak for itself.” Southworth, supra, at 229.

That is not to say that a government’s ability to express itself is without restriction. Constitutional and statutory provisions outside of the Free Speech Clause may limit government speech. Summum, supra, at 468. And the Free Speech Clause itself may constrain the government’s speech if, for example, the government seeks to compel private persons to convey the government’s speech. But, as a general matter, when the government speaks it is entitled to promote a program, to espouse a policy, or to take a position. In doing so, it represents its citizens and it carries out its duties on their behalf.

III

In our view, specialty license plates issued pursuant to Texas’s statutory scheme convey government speech. Our reasoning rests primarily on our analysis in Summum, a recent case that presented a similar problem. We conclude here, as we did there, that our precedents regarding government speech (and not our precedents regarding forums for private speech) provide the appropriate framework through which to approach the case. See 555 U. S., at 464.

A

In Summum, we considered a religious organization’s request to erect in a 2.5-acre city park a monument setting forth the organization’s religious tenets. See id., at 464–465. In the park were 15 other permanent displays. Id., at 464. At least 11 of these—including a wishing well, a September 11 monument, a historic granary, the city’s first fire station, and a Ten Commandments monument—had been donated to the city by private entities. Id., at 464–465. The religious organization argued that the Free Speech Clause required the city to display the organization’s proposed monument because, by accepting a broad range of permanent exhibitions at the park, the city had created a forum for private speech in the form of monuments. Brief for Respondent in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, O. T. 2008, No. 07–665, pp. 2–3, 30–36.

This Court rejected the organization’s argument. We held that the city had not “provid[ed] a forum for private speech” with respect to monuments. Summum, 555 U. S., at 470. Rather, the city, even when “accepting a privately donated monument and placing it on city property,” had “engage[d] in expressive conduct.” Id., at 476. The speech at issue, this Court decided, was “best viewed as a form of government speech” and “therefore [was] not subject to scrutiny under the Free Speech Clause.” Id., at 464.

We based our conclusion on several factors. First, his-tory shows that “[g]overnments have long used monuments to speak to the public.” Id., at 470. Thus, we observed that “[w]hen a government entity arranges for the construction of a monument, it does so because it wishes to convey some thought or instill some feeling in those who see the structure.” Ibid.

Second, we noted that it “is not common for property owners to open up their property for the installation of permanent monuments that convey a message with which they do not wish to be associated.” Id., at 471. As a result, “persons who observe donated monuments routinely—and reasonably—interpret them as conveying some message on the property owner’s behalf.” Ibid. And “observers” of such monuments, as a consequence, ordinarily “appreciate the identity of the speaker.” Ibid.

Third, we found relevant the fact that the city maintained control over the selection of monuments. We thought it “fair to say that throughout our Nation’s his-tory, the general government practice with respect to do-nated monuments has been one of selective receptivity.” Ibid. And we observed that the city government in Summum “ ‘effectively controlled’ the messages sent by the monuments in the [p]ark by exercising ‘final approval authority’ over their selection.” Id., at 473.

In light of these and a few other relevant considerations, the Court concluded that the expression at issue was government speech. See id., at 470–472. And, in reaching that conclusion, the Court rejected the premise that the involvement of private parties in designing the monuments was sufficient to prevent the government from controlling which monuments it placed in its own public park. See id., at 470–471. Cf. Rust, supra, at 192–196 (upholding a federal regulation limiting speech in aGovernment-funded program where the program was established and administered by private parties).

B

Our analysis in Summum leads us to the conclusion that here, too, government speech is at issue. First, the history of license plates shows that, insofar as license plates have conveyed more than state names and vehicle identification numbers, they long have communicated messages from the States. Cf. 555 U. S., at 470 (“Governments have long used monuments to speak to the public”). In 1917, Arizona became the first State to display a graphic on its plates. J. Fox, License Plates of the United States 15 (1997) (Fox); J. Minard & T. Stentiford, A Moving History 56 (2004) (Minard). The State presented a depiction of the head of a Hereford steer. Fox 15; Minard 56. In the years since, New Hampshire plates have featured the profile of the “Old Man of the Mountain,” Massachusetts plates have included a representation of the Commonwealth’s famous codfish, and Wyoming plates have displayed a rider atop a bucking bronco. Minard 60, 61, 66.

In 1928, Idaho became the first State to include a slogan on its plates. The 1928 Idaho plate proclaimed “Idaho Potatoes” and featured an illustration of a brown potato, onto which the license plate number was superimposed in green. Id., at 61. The brown potato did not catch on, but slogans on license plates did. Over the years, state plates have included the phrases “North to the Future” (Alaska), “Keep Florida Green” (Florida), “Hoosier Hospitality” (Indiana), “The Iodine Products State” (South Carolina), “Green Mountains” (Vermont), and “America’s Dairyland” (Wisconsin). Fox 13, 29, 39, 91, 101, 109. States have used license plate slogans to urge action, to promote tourism, and to tout local industries.

Texas, too, has selected various messages to communicate through its license plate designs. By 1919, Texas had begun to display the Lone Star emblem on its plates. Texas Department of Transportation, The History of Texas License Plates 9, 11 (1999). In 1936, the State’s general-issue plates featured the first slogan on Texas license plates: the word “Centennial.” Id., at 20. In 1968, Texas plates promoted a San Antonio event by including the phrase “Hemisfair 68.” Id., at 46. In 1977, Texas replaced the Lone Star with a small silhouette of the State. Id., at 63. And in 1995, Texas plates celebrated “150 Years of Statehood.” Id., at 101. Additionally, the Texas Legislature has specifically authorized specialty plate designs stating, among other things, “Read to Succeed,” “Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo,” “Texans Conquer Cancer,” and “Girl Scouts.” Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §§504.607, 504.613, 504.620, 504.622. This kind of state speech has appeared on Texas plates for decades.

Second, Texas license plate designs “are often closely identified in the public mind with the [State].” Summum, supra, at 472. Each Texas license plate is a government article serving the governmental purposes of vehicle registration and identification. The governmental nature of the plates is clear from their faces: The State places the name “TEXAS” in large letters at the top of every plate. More-over, the State requires Texas vehicle owners to display license plates, and every Texas license plate is issued by the State. See §504.943. Texas also owns the designs on its license plates, including the designs that Texas adopts on the basis of proposals made by private individuals and organizations. See §504.002(3). And Texas dictates the manner in which drivers may dispose of unused plates. See §504.901(c). See also §504.008(g) (requiring that vehicle owners return unused specialty plates to the State).

Texas license plates are, essentially, government IDs. And issuers of ID “typically do not permit” the placement on their IDs of “message[s] with which they do not wish to be associated.” Summum, 555 U. S., at 471. Consequently, “persons who observe” designs on IDs “routinely—and reasonably—interpret them as conveying some message on the [issuer’s] behalf.” Ibid.

Indeed, a person who displays a message on a Texas license plate likely intends to convey to the public that the State has endorsed that message. If not, the individual could simply display the message in question in larger letters on a bumper sticker right next to the plate. But the individual prefers a license plate design to the purely private speech expressed through bumper stickers. That may well be because Texas’s license plate designs convey government agreement with the message displayed.

Third, Texas maintains direct control over the messages conveyed on its specialty plates. Texas law provides that the State “has sole control over the design, typeface, color, and alphanumeric pattern for all license plates.” §504.005. The Board must approve every specialty plate design proposal before the design can appear on a Texas plate. 43 Tex. Admin. Code §§217.45(i)(7)–(8), 217.52(b). And the Board and its predecessor have actively exercised this authority. Texas asserts, and SCV concedes, that the State has rejected at least a dozen proposed designs. Reply Brief 10; Tr. of Oral Arg. 49–51. Accordingly, like the city government in Summum, Texas “has ‘effectively controlled’ the messages [conveyed] by exercising ‘final approval authority’ over their selection.” 555 U. S., at 473 (quoting Johanns, 544 U. S., at 560–561).

This final approval authority allows Texas to choose how to present itself and its constituency. Thus, Texas offers plates celebrating the many educational institutions attended by its citizens. See Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §504.615. But it need not issue plates deriding schooling. Texas offers plates that pay tribute to the Texas citrus industry. See §504.626. But it need not issue plates praising Florida’s oranges as far better. And Texas offers plates that say “Fight Terrorism.” See §504.647. But it need not issue plates promoting al Qaeda.

These considerations, taken together, convince us that the specialty plates here in question are similar enough to the monuments in Summum to call for the same result. That is not to say that every element of our discussion in Summum is relevant here. For instance, in Summum we emphasized that monuments were “permanent” and we observed that “public parks can accommodate only a limited number of permanent monuments.” 555 U. S., at 464, 470, 478. We believed that the speech at issue was government speech rather than private speech in part because we found it “hard to imagine how a public park could be opened up for the installation of permanent monuments by every person or group wishing to engage in that form of expression.” Id., at 479. Here, a State could theoretically offer a much larger number of license plate designs, and those designs need not be available for time immemorial.

But those characteristics of the speech at issue in Summum were particularly important because the government speech at issue occurred in public parks, which are traditional public forums for “the delivery of speeches and the holding of marches and demonstrations” by private citizens. Id., at 478. By contrast, license plates are not traditional public forums for private speech.

And other features of the designs on Texas’s specialty license plates indicate that the message conveyed by those designs is conveyed on behalf of the government. Texas, through its Board, selects each design featured on the State’s specialty license plates. Texas presents these designs on government-mandated, government-controlled, and government-issued IDs that have traditionally been used as a medium for government speech. And it places the designs directly below the large letters identifying “TEXAS” as the issuer of the IDs. “The [designs] that are accepted, therefore, are meant to convey and have the effect of conveying a government message, and they thus constitute government speech.” Id., at 472.

C

SCV believes that Texas’s specialty license plate designs are not government speech, at least with respect to the designs (comprising slogans and graphics) that were initially proposed by private parties. According to SCV, the State does not engage in expressive activity through such slogans and graphics, but rather provides a forum for private speech by making license plates available to display the private parties’ designs. We cannot agree.

We have previously used what we have called “forum analysis” to evaluate government restrictions on purely private speech that occurs on government property. Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Ed. Fund, Inc., 473 U. S. 788, 800 (1985) . But forum analysis is misplaced here. Because the State is speaking on its own behalf, the First Amendment strictures that attend the various types of government-established forums do not apply.

The parties agree that Texas’s specialty license plates are not a “traditional public forum,” such as a street or a park, “which ha[s] immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, ha[s] been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.” Perry Ed. Assn. v. Perry Local Educators’ Assn., 460 U. S. 37 –46 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The Court has rejected the view that traditional public forum status extends beyond its historic confines.” Arkansas Ed. Television Comm’n v. Forbes, 523 U. S. 666 , 678 (1998). And state-issued specialty license plates lie far beyond those confines.

It is equally clear that Texas’s specialty plates are neither a “ ‘designated public forum,’ ” which exists where “government property that has not traditionally been regarded as a public forum is intentionally opened up for that purpose,” Summum, supra, at 469, nor a “limited public forum,” which exists where a government has “reserv[ed a forum] for certain groups or for the discussion of certain topics,” Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819, 829 (1995) . A government “does not create a public forum by inaction or by permitting limited discourse, but only by intentionally opening a nontraditional forum for public discourse.” Cornelius, 473 U. S., at 802. And in order “to ascertain whether [a government] intended to designate a place not traditionally open to assembly and debate as a public forum,” this Court “has looked to the policy and practice of the government” and to “the nature of the property and its compatibility with expressive activity.” Ibid.

Texas’s policies and the nature of its license plates indicate that the State did not intend its specialty license plates to serve as either a designated public forum or a limited public forum. First, the State exercises final authority over each specialty license plate design. This authority militates against a determination that Texas has created a public forum. See id., at 803–804 (explaining that a school mail system was not a public forum because “[t]he practice was to require permission from the individual school principal before access to the system to communicate with teachers was granted”). Second, Texas takes ownership of each specialty plate design, making it particularly untenable that the State intended specialty plates to serve as a forum for public discourse. Finally, Texas license plates have traditionally been used for government speech, are primarily used as a form of government ID, and bear the State’s name. These features of Texas license plates indicate that Texas explicitly associates itself with the speech on its plates.

For similar reasons, we conclude that Texas’s specialty license plates are not a “nonpublic for[um],” which exists “[w]here the government is acting as a proprietor, managing its internal operations.” International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U. S. 672 –679 (1992). With respect to specialty license plate designs, Texas is not simply managing government property, but instead is engaging in expressive conduct. As we have described, we reach this conclusion based on the historical context, observers’ reasonable interpretation of the messages conveyed by Texas specialty plates, and the effective control that the State exerts over the design selection process. Texas’s specialty license plate designs “are meant to convey and have the effect of conveying a government message.” Summum, 555 U. S., at 472. They “constitute government speech.” Ibid.

The fact that private parties take part in the design and propagation of a message does not extinguish the governmental nature of the message or transform the government’s role into that of a mere forum-provider. In Summum, private entities “financed and donated monuments that the government accept[ed] and display[ed] to the public.” Id., at 470–471. Here, similarly, private parties propose designs that Texas may accept and display on its license plates. In this case, as in Summum, the “government entity may exercise [its] freedom to express its views” even “when it receives assistance from private sources for the purpose of delivering a government-controlled message.” Id., at 468. And in this case, as in Summum, forum analysis is inapposite. See id., at 480.

Of course, Texas allows many more license plate designs than the city in Summum allowed monuments. But our holding in Summum was not dependent on the precise number of monuments found within the park. Indeed, we indicated that the permanent displays in New York City’s Central Park also constitute government speech. See id., at 471–472. And an amicus brief had informed us that there were, at the time, 52 such displays. See Brief for City of New York in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, O. T. 2008, No. 07–665, p. 2. Further, there may well be many more messages that Texas wishes to convey through its license plates than there were messages that the city in Summum wished to convey through its monuments. Texas’s desire to communicate numerous messages does not mean that the messages conveyed are not Texas’s own.

Additionally, the fact that Texas vehicle owners pay annual fees in order to display specialty license plates does not imply that the plate designs are merely a forum for private speech. While some nonpublic forums provide governments the opportunity to profit from speech, see, e.g., Lehman v. Shaker Heights, 418 U. S. 298, 299 (1974) (plurality opinion), the existence of government profit alone is insufficient to trigger forum analysis. Thus, if the city in Summum had established a rule that organizations wishing to donate monuments must also pay fees to assist in park maintenance, we do not believe that the result in that case would have been any different. Here, too, we think it sufficiently clear that Texas is speaking through its specialty license plate designs, such that the existence of annual fees does not convince us that the specialty plates are a nonpublic forum.

Finally, we note that this case does not resemble other cases in which we have identified a nonpublic forum. This case is not like Perry Ed. Assn., where we found a school district’s internal mail system to be a nonpublic forum for private speech. See 460 U. S., at 48–49. There, it was undisputed that a number of private organizations, including a teachers’ union, had access to the mail system. See id., at 39–40. It was therefore clear that private parties, and not only the government, used the system to communicate. Here, by contrast, each specialty license plate design is formally approved by and stamped with the imprimatur of Texas.

Nor is this case like Lehman, where we found the advertising space on city buses to be a nonpublic forum. See R. A. V. v. St. Paul, 505 U. S. 377, 390, n. 6 (1992) (identifying Lehman as a case about a nonpublic forum). There, the messages were located in a context (advertising space) that is traditionally available for private speech. And the advertising space, in contrast to license plates, bore no indicia that the speech was owned or conveyed by the government.

Nor is this case like Cornelius, where we determined that a charitable fundraising program directed at federal employees constituted a nonpublic forum. See 473 U. S., at 804–806. That forum lacked the kind of history present here. The fundraising drive had never been a medium for government speech. Instead, it was established “to bring order to [a] solicitation process” which had previously consisted of ad hoc solicitation by individual charitable organizations. Id., at 792, 805. The drive “was designed to minimize . . . disruption to the [federal] workplace,” id., at 805, not to communicate messages from the government. Further, the charitable solicitations did not appear on a government ID under the government’s name. In contrast to the instant case, there was no reason for employees to “interpret [the solicitation] as conveying some message on the [government’s] behalf.” Summum, 555 U. S., at 471.

IV

Our determination that Texas’s specialty license plate designs are government speech does not mean that the designs do not also implicate the free speech rights of private persons. We have acknowledged that drivers who display a State’s selected license plate designs convey the messages communicated through those designs. See Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U. S. 705 , n. 15, 715 (1977) (observing that a vehicle “is readily associated with its operator” and that drivers displaying license plates “use their private property as a ‘mobile billboard’ for the State’s ideological message”). And we have recognized that the First Amendment stringently limits a State’s authority to compel a private party to express a view with which the private party disagrees. See id., at 715; Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U. S. 557, 573 (1995) ; West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624, 642 (1943) . But here, compelled private speech is not at issue. And just as Texas cannot require SCV to convey “the State’s ideological message,” Wooley, supra, at 715, SCV cannot force Texas to include a Confederate battle flag on its specialty license plates.

*  *  *

For the reasons stated, we hold that Texas’s specialty license plate designs constitute government speech and that Texas was consequently entitled to refuse to issue plates featuring SCV’s proposed design. Accordingly, the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is

Reversed.

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