Connecticut Veteran Sues For Right to Commemorate Fallen War Hero on his Property

Affiliate: ACLU of Connecticut
July 11, 2001 12:00 am

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HARTFORD, CT – – The Connecticut Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal complaint on behalf of a Franklin man who was told by town officials that zoning requirements bar him from placing a commemorative war veteran sign on his front lawn.

“”Every American has the right to free expression,”” said Philip Tegeler, Legal Director of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, “”and they especially have that right when it involves their own property. It is our hope that the town will come to understand this basic free speech principle.””

Last year, on Memorial Day, Charles Rutchick raised a sign on his property to commemorate Paul Henri Bienvenue, a Korean War veteran who was killed in action. The sign was intended to remind the citizens of Franklin that Mr. Bienvenue gave his life for his country, and that he was the only Franklin citizen killed in the Korean War.

The town, however, issued a “”cease and desist”” order to Rutchick and to Leo Bienvenue, Rutchick’s landlord. According to town officials, the sign does not meet zoning requirements for signs placed on residential property and must be removed.

Rutchick came to the ACLU for assistance, and in response the ACLU wrote a letter to the town demanding a withdrawal of the cease and desist order.

Franklin has since refused to withdraw, forcing the ACLU to file a federal complaint against the town and its zoning officials. The complaint alleges that the zoning regulation upon which the town bases its cease and desist order is unconstitutional because it improperly restricts speech protected by the First Amendment.

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