ACLU threatens lawsuit if Glen Rock won’t allow ‘Taps’

GLEN ROCK, Pa. (WHTM) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has threatened Glen Rock with a federal lawsuit if the borough won’t allow a resident to play an amplified recording of “Taps” every night.

In a letter Wednesday to the borough council, the ACLU said the “short musical ritual is expression protected by the First Amendment.”

The council last month decided to enforce a nuisance ordinance, with fines of $300 for each violation, and asked former councilman Joshua Corney to limit his playing of the amplified recording to Sundays and recognized flag holidays. The council said it had received two formal complaints about the volume and frequency of the recording since March 2016, after Comey installed a loudspeaker system for the nightly playing of “Taps” from his five-acre property.

In its letter, the ACLU said Corney is an active duty naval officer who plays the recording to honor veterans and Americans who died fighting for their country. It said Glen Rock has not threatened the same penalties for a nearby restaurant with outdoor music or a church’s twice-daily playing of hymns.

“Glen Rock Borough’s censorship of Lt. Commander Corney’s playing of ‘Taps’ while allowing lawnmowers, church bells, concerts, motor vehicles and many other noises customarily heard in the town that are even louder and last longer violates the First Amendment,” ACLU legal director Witold Walczak said in a statement. “Lt. Commander Corney has the constitutional right to offer his meaningful tribute every day to his fellow service members from his own home.”

The ACLU says it will petition a federal court for an injunction that would allow Corney to resume his nightly playing of “Taps” unless the borough withdraws its “cease and desist” order by Friday at 5 p.m.

The council has said its decision was not “a reflection of anti-American beliefs or a lack of respect for those who serve our country.” In a statement issued after its decision, it said three of five council members who voted on this issue are veterans of the armed forces, as are the residents who filed the complaints.

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