Feb 8, 2010

Letter to Editor

Editor February 4, 2010
Fitchburg Sentinel
P.O. Box 730
Fitchburg, MA 01420


I attended both Fitchburg City Council meetings about Planned Parenthood (PP) on February 2, 2010. I think that officials’ censorship, caused the first Council meeting to be unconstitutional. It appears to me that the President and Solicitor set up that earlier 6:30 p.m. meeting to benefit Planned Parenthood (PP) and to disenfranchise citizens who are against the abortionist moving to Fitchburg.

First, the Solicitor announced his biased-toward-PP legal opinion, limiting the content of the Councilors remarks, which destroyed the First Amendment rights of citizens and their Councilors. I understand that before the meetings, the Solicitor frightened the Councilors, individually, by warning of their potential, personal, legal liability, if they criticized PP at the meetings. Why?

Then, the Council President allowed only PP to testify at the Meeting of the Whole. No contrary public testimony was allowed before the Council vote. In fact, just before the Council vote, I loudly objected and asked the President about that injustice and was silenced. The Council voted without hearing both sides on whether to welcome PP onto Main Street.

According to The First Amendment Center, “The government may not silence speakers on the basis of their viewpoint or the content of their speech. The government must treat similarly situated speakers similarly”. I think Fitchburg citizens, censored from speaking before the first meeting’s vote, have a constitutional legal case against the President and the Solicitor. A quote follows from a 1990 US Circuit Court, White v. City of Norwalk, “Citizens have an enormous First Amendment interest in directing speech about public issues to those who govern their city.” In this case the Council President violated the First Amendment when he allowed speakers with whom he agreed (PP) but disallowed speakers with whom he disagreed (Fitchburg citizens).

Rod Murphy

Roderick P. Murphy
Southbridge, MA

1 comment :

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

In actuality, the Open Meeting Law does not give the public a right to participate or comment during open meetings. As a matter of practice, however, governmental bodies often allow members of the public to comment during public meetings. No one may address a public meeting of a governmental body without permission of the presiding officer, and all persons must be silent upon request of the presiding officer. See Mass Gen. Laws. ch. 39, § 23C.

However, if Planned Parenthood officials were permitted to speak while those representing the pro-life side of this issue were not, this would indeed present a legal issue for the City of Fitchburg in my opinion.