Right next to the Supreme Court, the ones who are supposed to protect free expression.
WASHINGTON, DC — Rebutting the Justice Department’s assertion that the government can dictate where people can engage in religious activity, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to reject the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit challenging the Supreme Court’s prohibition on First Amendment activities on its own front porch.
Des Moines Register picture. Editorial here.
The lawsuit, Payden-Travers v. Talkin, contends that the government’s restrictions on expressive activity in the plaza fronting the U.S. Supreme Court violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Supreme Court issued the ban on expressive activity in response to a June 2013 ruling in another lawsuit, Hodge v. Talkin, also filed by Rutherford Institute attorneys, challenging a 60-year-old statute banning expressive activities on the Supreme Court plaza. The federal district court declared the 60-year-old statute to be “unreasonable, substantially overbroad, and irreconcilable with the First Amendment.” In May 2016, the Supreme Court upheld its own ban on expressive activity in Hodge.
I’m not a lawyer, as the LSATs were really hard that year. On the other hand, other locations in Washignton, D.C. including near the Capitol, White house and such.
The plaza area in front of the Supreme Court is oval in shape and approximately 252 feet in length, is open 24-hours a day and is no different than other traditional public fora such as parks and sidewalks. The plaza has historically been used for First Amendment activities, including press conferences, tourists conversations, and filming of scenes for movies. Nevertheless, a 60-year-old statute broadly made it unlawful to display any flag, banner, or device designed to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement while on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court, thereby banning expressive activity on the Supreme Court plaza.
So, if I want to unfurl a flag on the steps of the Supreme Court Building, I’d be ticketed? Arrested? Told to move?