BOROUGH OF LANSDOWNE WILL NO LONGER PROHIBIT SPEECH
FROM THE BIBLE AFTER THE FILING OF A FEDERAL LAWSUIT
LANSDOWNE, Pa. - In October of last year, the law firm of Shields & Hoppe, LLP filed a lawsuit against the Borough of Lansdowne on behalf of borough resident Michael Marcavage for violating his right to free speech. This month, the Borough’s Council has agreed to concede to its wrongdoing.
On July 21, 2004, Michael Marcavage attended the regularly scheduled Lansdowne Borough Council meeting. During the open comment period mandated by state law, Mr. Marcavage rose to speak to discuss comments made by council member Kevin Lee to the Philadelphia Gay News. Although he had not exceeded any set time limits, Norman Council, the then Council President, told Mr. Marcavage that his time was up and that he would not be permitted to read from the Bible as it would be tantamount to engaging in hate speech. When Mr. Marcavage insisted that he had the right to speak, the Council unanimously adjourned the meeting. Mr. Marcavage was then forcefully removed and charged criminally with disrupting a public meeting and disorderly conduct. The criminal charges were ultimately dismissed as being without merit by the Delaware County District Attorney's Office. Subsequently, a federal lawsuit was filed to challenge the Borough Council’s unconstitutional actions.
Audio of the aforementioned exchange from the July 21, 2004 Lansdowne Borough Council meeting can be heard by clicking here.
This month, the Borough Council has agreed to settle the case by entering into a Consent Decree, which admits that Mr. Marcavage was “denied a full and fair opportunity to address the Council,” and affirms that Mr. Marcavage and all citizens have a constitutionally protected right to address the Borough Council. The Borough has also agreed to pay $25,000 in attorney’s fees.
“By entering into the Consent Decree, Mr. Marcavage’s actions and his right to free speech have been completely vindicated,” stated Ted Hoppe, attorney for Marcavage. “The decree guarantees that every citizen has the right to address the Lansdowne Borough Council on any issue of concern about the affairs of the community without fear of retribution or arrest for exercising their individual right of conscience,” Mr. Hoppe continued. “It also forces the Borough of Lansdowne to adhere to the mandates of both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions, and stands as a victory for the rights of all free people to address their governmental bodies on matters of importance to them,” Hoppe concluded.
Shields & Hoppe, LLP is a full service, general practice Firm providing representation of clients in state and federal Courts in Pennsylvania and the State of Delaware, with offices located in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware.
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