You thought “free speech” was protected under the Constitution and a right of every U.S. Citizen, right? Apparently, the municipal authorities in Brigham, Utah, a predominantly Mormon town of about 18,000 people, do not agree.
On Tuesday, on behalf of the Main Street Church, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Brigham City over its “free speech zone” ordinance that requires a municipal permit and licensed establishment of “free speech zones” to engage in free speech.
The Main Street Church, a non-denominational faith, was barred under the municipal statute from distributing pamphlets on some sidewalks near a new Mormon temple in the town. Apparently, the ordinance requires that any individual or group that wishes to stage a demonstration or hand out literature, or address the public directly on any issue, must seek municipal license for a “free speech zone” to engage in free speech.
Such “free speech zones,” if allowed, usually include limits on the time, place, and number of participants. Infringing the ordinance carries a misdemeanor criminal prosecution with up to 90 days in jail upon guilty findings. Civil fines range to $750 for each infringement and attempt to engage in unlicensed free speech within the jurisdiction of the municipal authorities.
In a written statement, John Mejia, legal director of Utah ACLU said, “The overbreadth of Brigham City’s ‘Free Speech Zone’ Ordinance is breathtaking.” Effectively, addressing the public or public expressions is banned in any form within the city unless it is ‘municipally licensed free speech. ‘
Such laws were there in colonial times when any public speech or assembly required permission from law enforcement and the Crown. In 1670 Quaker William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was convicted in England for public preaching. But, that was hundreds of years ago, and this is 2012, or may be some parts of the country are frozen in time …