In a case that made it all of the way to the desk of Rush Limbaugh, the Andover Tea Party in Ashtabula County has prevailed in its efforts to hold a Constitution Day rally on Andover Public Square. Previously, township officials had informed the residents that a rally in support of the Constitution was too political for the public square.
On September 16, U.S. District Court Judge Donald C. Nugent granted the 1851 Center a temporary injunction against Andover Township. The ruling cleared the way for the rally, and upheld the residents’ First Amendment rights. If the judge sided with Andover Township, local governments across the state would be emboldened to trample on First Amendment rights.
The Framers of the Constitution ratified the First Amendment to protect the right to debate the proper role of government without fear of retaliation.
The case in Andover demonstrates how the political class overlooks such basic constitutional rights. But it also demonstrates the need for Ohioans to vigilantly police their local governments, and when necessary, stand up to them. Courage is usually the first step in protecting one’s rights, and our clients in Andover should be applauded for theirs. We encourage other Ohioans to follow suit.
To learn more about the 1851 Center, visit http://www.ohioconstitution.org
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today filed a complaint and temporary restraining order against Andover Township (Ashtabula County) in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. The complaint charges that township trustees’ actions blocking a Constitution Day (Sept. 17) rally on Andover Public Square, by local residents, violated the First Amendment. The 1851 Center, a non-partisan public interest law firm, is representing residents Margaret L. Slingluff, Emily Kobialko and Scott Bankson, organizers of the “Andover Tea Party,” in the action.
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.
The decision to deny access to the park was made in accordance with a township resolution allowing officials to determine public space usage “on a case by case basis,” and to ban speech that they deem too “political.” However, the park in question is a common gathering point for public events that often have far more political overtones. Officials made no inquiry as to the size of the rally, or other pertinent logistical concerns.
“The First Amendment clearly protects the right to gather on the public square, speak out in support of limited constitutional government, and critique the current state of affairs,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “The government’s action in this case, ironically, demonstrates the need for greater public understanding of Constitutional rights. One way to do that is through commemoration of Constitution Day.”
“The townships’ self-aggrandizing authority to pick and choose who may speak, based upon whether they approve of the speaker’s message, is entirely unconstitutional,” added Thompson.