HCSO Threatens Constitutional Violations Over Lemonade Stand Pictures

The Hillsdale County Sheriff's Office has threatened to violate the Constitution, and you need to know what's going on.
 
At some point on Monday morning, the department's Facebook page posted the following statement, which has since been deleted:
 
 
Good morning everyone,

We wanted to remind everyone that our Facebook page is for positive comments and only POSITIVE comments. We will not allow anyone to make negative comments about anyone in our community, our office or our staff. If you do so, we will block you from our page.

Reference the comments about our office needing to investigate the "Lemonade Stands" our staff has attended that are put on by the young children in our community and the fact that they need to have a permit to have a stand are ridiculous.

Our office does not investigate complaints of tax law violation and we won't especially in these cases when the children in our community are outside and engaging the public.

Our staff will continue to support children in our community that have a "Lemonade Stand" and look forward to attending many more this summer.

Hillsdale County Sheriff's Office
Later, at 10:13 AM on Monday, the department's Facebook page posted the following rephrasing of that same statement, threatening merely to delete the "negative comments":
 
Screenshot of the Hillsdale County Sheriff's Office statement threatening to delete "negative" comments.


Good morning everyone,

We wanted to remind everyone that our Facebook page is for positive comments and only POSITIVE comments. We will not allow anyone to make negative comments about anyone in our community, our office or our staff. If you do so, we will delete the comment from our page.

Reference the comments about our office needing to investigate the "Lemonade Stands" our staff has attended that are put on by the young children in our community and the fact that they need to have a permit to have a stand are ridiculous.

Our office does not investigate complaints of tax law violation and we won't especially in these cases when the children in our community are outside and engaging the public.

Our staff will continue to support children in our community that have a "Lemonade Stand" and look forward to attending many more this summer.

Hillsdale County Sheriff's Office

Now here's why either of those actions -- blocking critical commenters or deleting their comments -- is blatantly illegal.
 
The Internet is the modern public square.  Access is ubiquitous.  If you do not have your own connection, there are public connections available.  Anyone from any background and economic situation can participate, and it is now irrevocably connected to our country's political process.  All laws that apply in the public square now apply on the Internet.  That includes the First Amendment.
 
This is why President Trump is currently being sued for blocking people on Twitter, and he will very likely lose that case.  His tweets, by the admission of top officials in his own administration, are official statements of the President of the United States, and every citizen is entitled -- has the right -- to access them.  He is violating that right for God only knows how many people.
 
 
But we don't just have cases currently in litigation to go on here.  There is established precedent that what the HCSO has threatened to do (and has possibly already done, we don't know) is unquestionably unconstitutional.
 
Let's start with elected officials (because the Sheriff is one).  A significant case in Virginia was just decided Sunday.  In that case, the chairwoman of a county board of supervisors was using her personal Facebook page to solicit comments on government matters.  She blocked the plaintiff for accusing the county's school board of corruption in response to that solicitation for comments, which the judge ruled was "suppressing critical commentary regarding elected officials."
 
 
According to the Hawaii Defense Foundation, "The complaint asserts that the Honolulu police arbitrarily moderate the page by deleting comments and banning users who post or make comments unfavorable to the department.  The complaint further asserts that online speech is just as important as a citizen airing their grievance in a public park – just because the speech is virtual, doesn’t mean it is not protected."
 
And while the case was settled between the parties, it required the police department, according to the judge's order, "to develop a policy, through negotiations with Plaintiffs’ proxy, the American Civil Liberties Union, governing public posting on HPD’s Facebook page."  In other words, a strict policy to NOT censor critical speech or block anyone who engages in it.
 
With Monday's statement, The Hillsdale County Sheriff's Office is threatening to overstep their bounds and commit crimes that we, the taxpayers, will be on the hook for financially.  Sheriff Tim Parker must IMMEDIATELY address this issue, establish a clear policy that prohibits censorship on their social media profiles, and rectify any censorship that may have already taken place (i.e. restoring the deleted comments -- which Facebook can do upon request -- and unblocking all profiles).
 
Anything less will be an abdication of his solemn oath to "support the Constitution of the United States."
 
Josh Colletta is the owner of Hillsdale News Now.
 

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