Just in time for the Independence Day holiday, a judge in California has intervened to allow members of the tea party there to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution, which had been banished by a local library board decision.
The news of the battle comes from Brad Dacus, of Pacific Justice Institute, who has been fighting officials in Redding, Calif., since earlier this year on behalf of tea party groups who want to give out copies of America’s founding document.
“As a matter of policy, they said they could not pass out the Constitution … We’re talking about outside the library in the breezeway, where people have passed things out before. [Library officials] saw this group, a tea party group, passing out the Constitution and specifically amended their policy to make it more restrictive,” he told WND.
A judge in Shasta County Superior Court now, however, has granted a preliminary injunction against the library, clearing the way for a distribution when tea party members choose, Dacus said.
The court case originated several months ago when PJI and Redding attorney Tim Pappas filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Redding-based Bostonian Tea Party, the North State Tea Party Alliance and tea party official SuAnn Prigmore.
The residents distributed copies of the Constitution and other patriotic-themed materials in the library’s breezeway during Constitution Week last September. Library officials immediately sought to restrict the peaceful sharing of such ideas, even though other groups also have distributed materials at that location, Dacus said.
Then over subsequent months a library committee drafted a new policy designed to limit such activities. Despite objections from attorneys representing a wide spectrum of interest groups, members of the city council, acting as the Library Board of Trustees, voted 4-1 this spring to approve the policy.
A temporary restraining order came almost immediately, and this week that was followed with a temporary injunction against the ban.
City officials did not respond to several WND calls seeking comment.
“Of all places, the library should be encouraging the free flow of information, especially when it promotes patriotism, the Constitution, and good citizenship,” said PJI affiliate attorney Timothy Pappas. “The evidence shows that the tea party members have acted sensibly and politely, that their educational activities occur away from the quiet reading rooms of the library, and their presence has not created any kind of disturbance.”
PJI challenged the ban for its apparent conflict with both state and federal constitutions, officials said.
“Our Founding Fathers created public libraries to promote civic education and good citizenship,” Dacus said. “It is outrageous that the library sought to restrict the distribution of the Constitution, and we are thrilled that the court has again sided with free speech over censorship.”
He said the fight was ironic on two levels: the first that libraries generally are seen as spreading information, not censoring it, and the second that the Constitution probably “is the most accepted and revered document in our country, as well as the most uncontroversial.”
Dacus said the next court hearing could include a request for a permanent injunction, although the library also could amend its new policy to address to concerns.