Following Gardner Police Department’s threatened enforcement of an unpublished Gardner City non-solicitation ordinance, we sent them a reminder of citizens’ First Amendment rights.
While canvassing door-to-door, Mr. Brown, a volunteer with a political party, was confronted by Gardner police, who claimed Mr. Brown was violating a city non-solicitation ordinance and threatened to him if he continued to canvass. Approximately five minutes later, the same officer pulled Mr. Brown over and ticketed him for allegedly failing to use his turn signal.
The Supreme Court of the United States has routinely held that canvassing for noncommercial causes–especially those of a political or religious nature–is activity protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.Particularly, state action that has a chilling effect on the use of constitutionally protected speech violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Tenth Circuit has established that” any form of official retaliation for exercising one’s freedom of speech, including prosecution, threatened prosecution, bad faith investigation, and legal harassment, constitutes an infringement of that freedom.” And Kansas law specifically exempts political canvassing from the purview of non-solicitation ordinances.
We urge the City of Gardner and the Gardner Police Department to train their officers on First Amendment rights, especially as it pertains to political canvassing, and ensure no one else has their Constitutional freedoms violated.