The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit against the Jackson County Public Library, after the library banned a patron for sharing an anti-Trump message. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Mr. Richard England, alleges that during a visit to the library, Mr. England left an original poem critical of then-President Trump at the library’s circulation desk and was then banned from the library, in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Due to Mr. England’s personal circumstances, he is not able to afford cable television, internet service, or other forms of paid entertainment. In lieu of these information sources, Mr. England frequented the Library, approximately twice a week, for a decade or more. He also maintained a friendly relationship with several employees of the Library and would converse with them while checking out or returning materials.
In November, Mr. England brought an original poem that he wrote titled “The Red Mean.” The poem, while critical of then-President Trump and his followers, was not vulgar, threatening, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate. Mr. England had intended to give the poem to a library employee who he believed would enjoy it. The employee was not present, so Mr. England left his poem in a basket on the circulation desk, which contained masks for customers to take if they needed one.
When Mr. England returned home, he was surprised to find a voicemail from the Seymour Police Department informing him that he was banned from the Library for the rest of his life and that, if he returned to the Library, he would be arrested for criminal trespass. Mr. England contacted the library and the Circulation Manager informed him that “We don’t do politics at the library.”
“The Library’s action banning Mr. England from accessing materials impacts his right to receive information,” said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana Senior Attorney. “In addition, the First Amendment protects people who, regardless of their views, attempt to hold the government accountable through expression.”