The Tippecanoe County Commissioners were dealt an embarrassing blow yesterday in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals when they rejected the discriminatory policy used by the county since 1999 to deny citizens equal access for events and displays.
What has been missing from public discussion is the history of the unconstitutional policy. It wasn’t drafted to keep groups like the Higher Society out of the public square. It was designed to keep Jesus Christ out of the public square. Rather than accommodate religious citizens from displaying a nativity on the courthouse square during the Christmas season, commissioners chose to close the forum to non-government sponsored groups.
The ruling, handed down yesterday, includes the policy in question:
“Only displays and events sponsored and prepared by a department or office of county government will be allowed in the windows of the Tippecanoe County Office Building or on the grounds of the Tippecanoe County Courthouse. Said displays and events shall be scheduled through the Board of Commissioners of the County of Tippecanoe.”
The problem is that once the forum was closed, commissioners took it upon themselves to allow groups that they deemed to be acceptable to use the public square while rejecting ones they did not agree with. This type of political arrogance should be rejected, in court and at the ballot box. It doesn’t take a legal scholar to understand that this is not the American way. The Commissioners have been violating the rights of Tippecanoe County citizens since 1999, and until recently, they were satisfied to do just that. Not one of them stood up against the policy when they had a chance to do it. Not one stood up for the constitution but were satisfied with violating it.
Many citizens, including commissioners, may not agree with the pro-drug message that the High Society has to offer; however, violating the constitutional rights of even one citizen is more repugnant than any of the messages they have rejected on the steps of the courthouse.
Here is the ruling ( Scroll Down & Click on to enlarge):