ACLU Says Des Moines Suburb Has Violated First, Fourth And 14th Amendments

Aug 14, 2017

The ACLU of Iowa says a Des Moines suburb has violated the constitutional rights of two couples, who displayed signs critical of the city on their properties. The civil liberties organization is demanding the City of Windsor Heights allow the homeowners to display their signs.

One of the signs opposes a recent decision by Windsor Heights to install sidewalks. The second protests the city's removal of the first sign.

ACLU legal director Rita Bettis says Windsor Heights has violated the First Amendment in two ways. First, the city can’t treat signs differently based on content. Secondly, Windsor Heights told one of the couples to remove their sign only after an anonymous complaint was filed.

"That is something that the courts call a 'heckler’s veto' that regulates the speech that people are able to express, and censures that speech based whether others object to that speech and find it offensive," she explains. "That’s something that’s clearly impermissible under the First Amendment."

In addition to the First Amendment violations, one of the signs was removed while the homeowners were on vacation. Because Windsor Heights didn’t have a warrant, Bettis says that’s a Fourth Amendment violation.

Also by simply removing the sign while the owners where on vacation, Bettis says this deprived the couple of their 14th Amendment right of due process. 

Emails and calls to the Windsor Heights mayor, city council and staff were not returned.

The ACLU says the city has until next Monday to respond.