LAFAYETTE– Anyone who wants to stage a rally or any sort of event at the Tippecanoe County Courthouse will have access to the county grounds in downtown Lafayette under a new set of rules meant to get county commissioners on the right side of the First Amendment.
The policy comes a year after commissioners were sued in federal court by a group pushing for marijuana law reform was turned away under a policy that gave county officials the right to pick and choose who could take the steps and lawn at the 19th century courthouse.
“We all have strong feelings that people need to have a way to express themselves in a public forum like our courthouse square,” said Tracy Brown, one of three county commissioners. “Finding something that meets everyone’s needs but still protects the county is important. … I think we’ve found that.”
Before the unanimous vote Monday morning, Brown stipulated that the commissioners give the new courthouse policy one year to make sure it struck a balance between First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly without exposing the courthouse grounds to abuse and maintenance issues.
The county had been working off a courthouse use policy instituted in 1999. At the time, commissioners were being pressed by some residents to put a Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn, as once had been done but that had disappeared in more recent decades.