Tippecanoe Commissioners Get Little Feedback About Courthouse Display Policy

Jul 17, 2017

The new policy would allow the kinds of free speech rights a federal judge says the commissioners were infringing under their old policy.
Credit kdemerly / https://www.flickr.com/photos/kdemerly/

The Tippecanoe County Commissioners are one vote away from changing their policy on how the county courthouse may be used for displays and demonstrations.

The previous policy, which allowed the commissioners to approve or deny permits as they saw fit, was struck down by a federal court earlier this year.

The new policy is, in the words of county attorney Doug Masson, “viewpoint neutral,” though it retains restrictions on when a display may occur – mostly to avoid disturbing legal proceedings in the courthouse.

“We’re trying to abide by the court’s order and create a policy that will obviously stand up to any challenge,” Masson says.

Masson says nearby businesses would be allowed to lodge complaints, but the county will encourage free speech first and foremost.

“You know, it’s like any other neighbor. At a certain point it becomes intolerable, but some neighbors have more difficulty than others in getting along. And so it would be the same advice I’d give to any neighbor, which is: do your best to get along but when you just can’t anymore, come to the Commissioners and see what your options are,” he says.

The kerfuffle over use of the space came to a head when a group favoring marijuana use was denied a permit to protest the state’s marijuana laws, thus prompting the federal lawsuit against the county.

The Commissioners will vote once more on the plan at their next meeting in early August.