FILE - Confederate Railroad

Country music fans are reflected in the glasses of Confederate Railroad lead singer Danny Shirley during a concert at the annual International Country Music Fan Fair in Nashville, Tenn. June 12, 2000.

A state legislator who represents the Illinois State Fairgrounds said he's worried Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration is on a slippery slope of state-sponsored censorship after canceling the performance of a band at the DuQuoin State Fair and that a boycott of the event would only hurt the local community.

Pritzker's administration canceled a scheduled performance by Confederate Railroad, a country music act from Georgia, administration because the band uses the Confederate flag, which is associated with racism, slavery and treason.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he’s no fan of the Confederate flag, but said the government should not engage in censorship.

“Obviously, we’re in a very contentious time in the history of the United States, but to have state-sponsored censorship, to me, as somebody who deeply believes in the First Amendment, is a dangerous thing to do,” Butler said.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, who also was critical of Pritzker’s decision, said the Confederate flag teaches about the nation’s troubled history.

“Sometimes these times are necessary to get to the next state and for us to be erasing history is very, very dangerous,” Bailey said.

Butler said the state should have clear standards for what is and isn’t acceptable. He noted that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum gift shop sells some memorabilia that features the Confederate flag. While the state owns and operates the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a nonprofit foundation that supports the museum runs the gift shop.

“This is part of the history of the United States, the good and the bad,” Butler said. “And the Civil War was a tremendously terrible time in our country and no one in their right mind defends but the institution of slavery in the United States, but we have to continue to talk about it.”

The fallout from Pritzker's decision to cancel Confederate Railroad's performance at the DuQuoin State Fair has included calls on social media for a boycott of the fair. Some have criticized Pritzker’s decision as a double standard because the governor defended controversial imagery used by rapper Snoop Dogg as political satire. Snoop Dogg is scheduled to perform at Illinois State Fair in Springfield next month.

“People talk about boycotting the fair, boycotting DuQuoin, well it’s very important to understand that DuQuoin, or the local people, did not make this decision,” Bailey said. “This decision was made in Springfield.”

Butler, who represents the Springfield fairgrounds, said a boycott would hurt the local community.

“Especially the vendors who benefit from people spending their dollars at the state fair. My community of Springfield benefits mightily from the state fair. I hope people don’t boycott it and I hope the same thing for DuQuoin.”

The Illinois State Fair runs from Aug. 8 to Aug. 18 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. Snoop Dogg is set to perform Aug. 16.

The DuQuoin State Fair runs from Aug. 23 to Sept. 2. Restless Heart and Shenandoah are scheduled to perform Aug. 27. That was the day Confederate Railroad was also supposed to perform.

Staff Writer

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.