Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Virginia Fifth District Race - #2050 - Rutherford Institute Calls Sign Ban at Tom Perriello Town Hall Meetings 'An Act of Outright Censorship' - Rutherford Institute

FOR THE LATEST IN THE CONTROVERSY OF CONGRESSMAN TOM PERRIELLO BANNING SIGNS AT HIS TOWN HALL MEETINGS:  In a letter to Tom Perriello, The Rutherford Institutes states, 'The Rutherford Institute was contacted by one of your constituents, Steve Peters, whose First Amendment right to free speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances has been denied by your prohibition on signs during your town hall meetings.  Your sign ban amounts to an act of outright censorship that raises grave constitutional concerns."

Calling Prohibition On Signs At Town Hall Meetings An Act Of Outright Censorship, Rutherford Institute Calls On Perriello To Rescind His Sign Ban.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.-- Declaring Congressman Tom Perriello’s (D-VA) ban on signs at town hall meetings “an act of outright censorship that raises grave constitutional concerns,” The Rutherford Institute is urging the congressman to immediately rescind the prohibition or face possible legal action.

The Rutherford Institute’s letter regarding Congressman Perriello’s sign ban at town hall meetings is available here. “Historically, town hall meetings have been public forums wherein constituents can hear and address their representatives. In such an environment, the public’s right to freely express themselves should be at its zenith, which is something our Constitution protects,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “This sign ban is an act of censorship that cannot be reasoned away on the pretext that it is intended to encourage freedom of speech and to discourage partisan politics. While such a commitment to civil discourse on Congressman Perriello’s part is to be commended, it cannot come at the expense of his constituents’ First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.”  In his capacity as a public official, Congressman Tom Perriello has held and continues to hold town hall meetings funded by public taxpayer funds in public buildings situated on public property, such as Scottsville Elementary School and the Campbell County Board of Supervisors meeting room.

In July 2010, Perriello announced that a town hall meeting series would be held between August 4 and September 13 at various public buildings in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. However, purportedly in an effort “to ensure a pleasant atmosphere” and allow constituents “to interact with their congressman without partisan politics getting in the way,” Perriello adopted a prohibition on all signs in the meeting room. Yet as Whitehead points out in a letter to Perriello, these are not private events. “Rather, they are government-sponsored forums whose very purpose is to engender communication with one’s constituents on matters of public concern.”  (Photo on left is Steve Peters who first contact Rutherford Institute regarding the sign ban and has attended several of the town hall meeting and was prohibited from bring in a sign).

Furthermore, the First Amendment forbids government officials from imposing absolute prohibitions on a particular kind of expression in public forums of this kind. And finally, the U.S. Supreme Court declared a similarly overbroad ban on signs within a public forum to be unconstitutional in 1983. Thus, Whitehead asserts, far from enhancing expression, Perriello’s ban on signs violates his constituents’ First Amendment right to free speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Whitehead closes his letter to Perriello by reminding the congressman that “[a]s a representative of the people of the 5th district of Virginia, it is your sworn duty to see that your constituents’ constitutional rights are protected.”
The Rutherford Institute web site........

Good to be King Part 1 - "King Tom" - Perriello Bans Signs at Taxpayer-funded Town  Hall Meetings -  Schilling Show Blog - A notorious nemesis of First Amendment freedoms, Democrat Congressman Tom Perriello (VA-05) has done the unthinkable: By royal decree, he has outlawed his subjects’ right to free speech!
At a series of taxpayer-funded re-election rallies (aka Town Hall meetings), Perriello’s staff has posted the following edict at the Congressman’s behest:
“To assure a pleasant atmosphere, no signs [...]  For further commentary from Rob Schilling, and video from NBC29 of the Town hall meetings, go to ..............

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