5/20/2011BLACKSBURG, S.C. — The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a 73-year-old Virginia resident who was allegedly ordered by a park ranger to remove his car from a national military park in South Carolina because of political messages attached to his vehicle. Jack Faw, whose ancestors fought in the historic battle memorialized at Kings Mountain National Military Park, contacted The Rutherford Institute after being told by a park ranger that the decal promoting a political organization associated with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), which was displayed on the back window of Faw's car, was not allowed in the park. In a legal letter to Park officials, constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead warned that the ranger's directive, which resulted in Faw being forced to leave the park, violated Faw's First Amendment rights, as well as National Park Service regulations. Whitehead also demanded assurances that Park employees will be properly instructed in how to respect the constitutional rights of visitors to the Park so that Faw and others will not face similar restrictions in the future.
Whitehead's letter to officials at Kings Mountain National Military Park is available here.
"The display of political messages from a vehicle is unquestionably expression protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "This type of censorship is what you would expect in some foreign regime, not a public park in America."
Jack Faw is a frequent visitor to Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg, S.C., which marks the site where three of his ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. Faw visited the park on May 6, 2011, en route to his home in Virginia. Soon after arriving and in the midst of his tour through the exhibits, Faw was approached by a park ranger who asked Faw to come into the ranger's office. The ranger informed Faw that he must remove his car from the parking lot because it displayed a political decal that is not allowed in National Parks. On the rear window of Faw's passenger vehicle is a translucent decal promoting "Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty," an organization dedicated to reestablishing and furthering the principles embodied in the United States Constitution. Although Faw protested that he had a right to display the decal and asserted it was not causing any disturbance, the ranger insisted that the car be removed from the park, at which point Mr. Faw felt compelled to comply with the order and left the Park.
Insisting that National Park employees be properly educated about basic constitutional precepts in order to ensure that this incident is not repeated, attorney John Whitehead reminded Park officials that visitors to National Parks do not forfeit their First Amendment rights to speech and expression. Indeed, noted Whitehead, Faw's political messages on his vehicle appear to be wholly consistent with and allowable under regulations promulgated last October by the National Park Service concerning expressive activities by the public within National Parks. Furthermore, not only is the display of a political message on a vehicle unquestionably expression protected by the First Amendment, but a federal appeals court recently ruled that the right of citizens to freedom of speech applies within the confines of National Parks.