It’s political season again, when another set of Indiana officials get to display either their complete ignorance of or complete indifference to the First Amendment:
A Plainfield man wanting to show his support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama filed suit today over an ordinance banning campaign yard signs more than 30 days before an election.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is representing Robert Nick Crews, who received a letter this month from Plainfield’s planning and zoning department advising him of the ordinance. The ACLU says the 10-year-old measure is a restriction on political speech, violating the First Amendment.
THE ACLU has already won this dispute in several Indiana communities and deserved to. The First Amendment has been turned on its head so often these days that it’s hard to recognize it. On the one hand, people insist on stretching it to cover all kinds of things it was never intended to cover, such as nude dancing and whether a dumb celebrity can drop the F-bomb on television. But when it comes to political speech, which the amendment was meant to protect, public officials suddenly get stupid. Campaign cash? You don’t have the right to use that to support a candidate. Yard signs? You don’t need no stinkin’ yard signs.
Some of you may remember that Paul Helmke knocked Win Moses out of the mayor’s office in part because Moses’ people kept raising a stink about Helmke’s “illegal” yard signs (not a good stink to raise with a First Amendment lawyer), giving Helmke a public controversy that moved his name recognition up without his having to spend a lot of money on campaign ads.
Well, it doesn’t look like the horse is moving, so I guess I’ll quit.