Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Citizens Action Coalition sues cities over restrictions on door to door canvassing

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CHARLES WILSON,

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) A consumer advocacy group on Thursday sued two Indiana communities, saying their restrictions on door-to-door canvassing are unconstitutional.

The Citizens Action Coalition, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, sued Yorktown and Jeffersonville in U.S. District Court in New Albany. Their lawsuits say both communities' licensing requirements violate the First Amendment right of free speech.

The ordinance in Jeffersonville, across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky., requires political and religious groups that go door to door raising funds or distributing leaflets to obtain a license that can cost up to $500 per individual for one year. The fee is $150 plus $50 per day per person in Yorktown, located about 45 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

The rules set other restrictions, including hours during which licensed canvassers can operate and include exceptions for veterans, auctioneers and farmers selling produce.

Officials in both communities told The Associated Press that they had not yet seen the lawsuits and generally do not comment on pending litigation.

Kerwin Olson, Citizens Action Coalition's executive director, said the Indianapolis-based organization contacts local officials and provides police with a list of canvassers before sending its representatives door to door. Jeffersonville and Yorktown, Olson said, are bucking legal precedent.

"It's well established that door-to-door canvassing, whether for political or religious reasons, is constitutional," Olson said in a phone interview.

ACLU attorney Gavin Rose said the civil rights group has repeatedly represented organizations whose right to go door to door was challenged, including the Jehovah's Witnesses, who won a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2002.

However, a federal appeals court last year upheld a Missouri town ordinance imposing limits on protests at funerals that was passed in response to the activities of the Westboro Baptist Church. Members of the Topeka, Kan., church frequently protest at funerals of soldiers, asserting the deaths are God's punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

 

 

Posted 3/14/2013