In a letter faxed earlier today, the ACLU of Virginia warned Chesterfield County against attempting to block a meeting of a white-supremacist group scheduled to take place at the Chester Library this Saturday.
Although county library staff previously approved the gathering of the controversial World Church of the Creator, some members of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors have demanded that the meeting be cancelled. The Board of Supervisors may address this issue at its meeting tomorrow.
Chesterfield County library policy permits non-profit groups to use meeting rooms in library facilities and apparently promises not to discriminate against groups on account of the beliefs they hold. The free speech clause of the U.S. Constitution also prohibits public officials from denying access to public forums based on viewpoint.
“It it amazing how some government officials still don’t get the First Amendment,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “It’s really very simple. Elected officials can exercise their own free speech rights to denounce groups like the World Church of the Creator all they want, but they cannot take any official action to deny such groups their right of free speech.”
“Historically, free speech has served this nation well, giving progressive voices a foothold when they are still new and exposing the voices of hatred for what they are,” said Willis. “The former tend to grow and take us forward, while the latter remain marginalized. For this to work, though, the government cannot dictate what we hear. That is for the people to decide.”
“We have suggested to members of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors that they do absolutely nothing to stop the meeting of the World Church of the Creator,” added Willis, “but that they actively join whatever demonstrations are available to them if they wish to express their scorn for the views of the group.”
A copy of the ACLU’s letter to the board of supervisors is found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20020917-Chesterfield-World-Church-Meeting.pdf.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director0ffice: (804) 644-8022