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    First Amendment Under Attack in Illinois

    08/12/2013

    Illinois, Illinois, Illinois. What has happened to you? How could the land of Lincoln stray so far from the principles of freedom? Every time we look, the state government is up to something shady. While the graft usually takes place in Chicago, today’s example comes from Bellevue, just outside of St. Louis.

    Dianne Rogge, proprietress of the Pour House, had something on her mind. Rogge had hoped to secure tax increment financing (or TIF) in the amount of $15,000 to pay for repairs and maintenance for her pub. Her claim was turned down, she alleges, because she supported Mayor Mark Eckert’s opponent Phil Elmore. Rogge then decided to air her grievance for all to see by putting a sign in her window (yes, inside the building) reading “No TIF for US; Tks B’Ville” on June 5. City officials were not pleased with the sarcastic way she exercised her First Amendment rights.

    The city alleges the sign violates an ordinance that prohibits political signs without a paid permit. Rogge is being fined $500 a day, which puts her total bill somewhere north of $31,000. Fortunately, this is one citizen who is willing to fight for her Constitutional rights. She has launched a federal lawsuit claiming the sign ordinance is unconstitutional and is asking for $50,000 in compensation and damages. “You’re allowed to put political statements anywhere you want, and this is my business,” Ms. Rogge said, to a local KMOV broadcast station. “It’s inside, it follows the sign ordinance and, therefore, I’m not breaking any laws. You cannot stomp all over the Constitution.”

    I couldn’t agree more.