Upholding Free Speech Rights of the Unpopular, Idaho Court Allows Aryan Nations to March

Affiliate: ACLU of Idaho
July 9, 1999 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Idaho
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


COEUR D’ALENE, ID — A Federal Court today ordered the City of Coeur d’Alene to grant the Aryan Nations a parade permit allowing them to march through the city’s downtown area tomorrow.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho had requested the court order on behalf of the group, claiming that the city had denied the parade route request for content-based reasons, and that such denial was an unconstitutional prior restraint of speech.

In its order, Chief U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge agreed with the ACLU’s argument that “the selection of the Ramsey Road parade route solely for the [Aryan Nations] parade is not a content-neutral application of the parade permit ordinance.”

The Court also said that the City’s reasons for re-routing the parade were “pretextual,” and that there was no evidence to suggest a “‘clear and present danger’ associated with the [Aryan Nation’s] parade request.”

“The re-routing of the parade does not provide adequate channels of communication for the [Aryan Nations],” the Court said, “and removes the parade from the intended audience in potential violation of the First Amendment.”

Jack Van Valkenburgh, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho, said he was pleased with the Court’s decision, and trusted that the public would not confuse the ACLU’s defense of the right to speak with any defense of the Aryans’ message.

“‘I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ is a quote attributed to Voltaire,” he said. “Well, if Voltaire were alive today, I think he would be proud of the ACLU.”

“The ACLU believes that the right to utter unpopular political speech — on terms equal to the right to utter popular political speech — is as fundamental to our American freedoms as any right, whether realized or imagined,” he concluded.

ACLU cooperating attorneys Harold B. Smith of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Dawn Reynolds of Pullman, Washington, represented Richard Butler, on behalf of the Aryan Nations. Substantial assistance was also provided by Elizabeth Brandt of Moscow.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release