Gould almighty

It ain’t all good in Gould, Ark. Political discourse in the small tornado-prone town has reached a low point. A point so low, it probably violates the U.S. Constitution.

A fracas between members of the city council and the mayor resulted in the passage of an ordinance that forbids the formation of a group without the approval of the city council.

This comes after other restrictive ordinances, reports the New York Times. The council attempted to reel in the perceived outsized influence of the Gould Citizens Advisory Council, an organization the mayor is active in, by passing an ordinance that would forbid the mayor to meet with groups inside or outside the city of Gould.

The advisory council, which calls itself a nonpartisan group that educates voters and raises money for public causes, says it will continue its work. But the City Council, in one ordinance, accused the group of “causing confusion and discourse among the citizens” by harshly criticizing local officials at public meetings. (NYT)

One council member says the ordinances should be re-written with “more constitutionally sensitive wording.”

  • kurt

    This ordinance very clearly violates the First Amendment by making community standards a reasonable means for determining legitimacy. In (and this is the best named Supreme Court case ever) Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (508 U.S. 520, 1993) the Court, in a 9-0 unanimous decision said, that these types of ordinances focused on a particular group violates the Free Exersice Clause of the First Amendment.

    The city of Hialeah attempted to ban animal sacrifice after members of this Roman Catholic sect from the Caribbean were found to be sacrificing animals as per their religion. The Court said that by selecting this group for unpopular actions was an infringement of their right to express and practice their religion.

    For Gould to think they will somehow prevail is sort of funny. I guess none of them have read the Court’s lengthy jurisprudence on First Amendment issues. This ordinance is directed at a group without compelling governmental interest, and is overly broad in scope in nature. Though the parallels between the two ordinances are different, they are similar enough to know that it is doubtful the State Attorney General will let this become law.