Government Bans Tea Party From Celebrating U.S. Constitution
Constitution Day rally deemed “too political” by Ohio Township trustees
Wednesday, Sept 15th, 2010
Local government representatives in an Ohio town have taken it upon themselves to prohibit a Tea Party celebration of the US Constitution, prompting a lawsuit over restrictions on First Amendment rights.
Members of the Andover Tea Party in Ohio have been informed that they cannot hold a public rally in the Town’s central square on Constitution Day (September 17) because of the group’s “political affiliation”.
The decision was taken by the Township’s trustees, and members of the Tea Party group were informed by letter that they would not be able to use the square for speakers and performances of patriotic songs.
Township officials informed the residents that speech at the Constitution Day rally could be of a “political nature,” and thus inappropriate for the public square, writes the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a nonpartisan, non profit law group that has filed a complaint and temporary restraining order against Andover Township (Ashtabula County) in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.
In the complaint, 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson writes, “It cannot be contested or doubted that the speech in which Plaintiffs seek to engage—honoring and discussing the fundamental law of this nation, i.e., the Constitution—is at the core of the speech protected by the First Amendment. And no venue could further reinforce such message as doing so in the center and heart of the community.”
“In this case, the communicative nature of Plaintiffs’ proposed activities, as well as the selection of the venue for such speech, is indisputably protected by the First Amendment.” Thompson adds.
A copy of the complaint and temporary restraining order are available here and here.
“The government’s action in this case, ironically, demonstrates the need for greater public understanding of Constitutional rights,” Thompson added in a written statement. “One way to do that is through commemoration of Constitution Day.”
In an interview with CNS News, Thompson elaborated on the case:
“The first thing that you note is the extreme irony of the unconstitutional prohibition of the commemoration of the Constitution.”
“[A]nd the second thing that’s notable is either the extreme arrogance or ignorance of many local government officials. There’s so much focus on federal government, yet some of the worst actors are at the ground level,” Thompson said.
A ruling is expected to be made on the case in the next 24.