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Thread: ACLU Defends "Taps"

  1. #1
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    Default ACLU Defends "Taps"

    A Small Town in Pennsylvania Is Treading on This Naval Officer’s First Amendment Rights

    By Witold Walczak, Legal Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania
    JULY 10, 2017 | 4:30 PM

    Lieutenant Commander Joshua Corney, an active duty naval officer who lives in rural Pennsylvania, returned from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan with a promise. As he settled back into life stateside, he wanted to offer a meaningful tribute to his fellow service members — especially those who never had the chance to come home.

    So, in 2015, he started playing a recording of taps — a military bugle call most often heard at sunset and at military funerals — on his five-acre property in Glen Rock, a small town of 2,000 people near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. Every evening before 8:00 p.m., Lt. Commander Corney would offer the musical testament to all who have served.

    “I play this audio memorial in remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as those who continue to serve and protect our country and freedoms,” said Lt. Commander Corney, who is represented by lawyers from the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “It is a way to honor a promise I made to God — by taking 57 seconds each day to reflect on sacrifices made 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to obtain and sustain our freedoms."

    For nearly two years, his tribute went on with little controversy. The borough allows other music to be amplified on a regular basis, including church hymns and bells and live performances at a local restaurant. At less than a minute long, the recording of taps was one of the borough’s shorter pieces of amplified music. When one neighbor approached Lt. Commander Corney about a year ago to ask if he could turn down the volume, Corney accommodated the request by reorienting the speakers away from the neighbor’s home. But this spring, the controversy erupted when another neighbor complained to the borough.

    This controversy is a reminder that no matter who you are or your station in life, you may need the Constitution.
    In response, the borough ordered Corney to limit the playing of taps to Sundays and what it termed “flag holidays.” Each violation of the borough’s order would bring a criminal fine of 300 dollars. But the borough’s enforcement action involves two big constitutional no-nos: the heckler’s veto and content-based censorship.

    The borough is relying on a nuisance ordinance that prohibits sound that “annoys or disturbs” others. In a patriotic town like Glen Rock, which is home to many military veterans, it’s no surprise that Lt. Commander Corney has many supporters. But a single complaint triggered the enforcement action. If a “heckler” could shut down anyone who said or played something that annoyed or offended them by complaining to government officials, freedom of speech would be no more. For more than 75 years, it has been black letter First Amendment law that the government cannot censor speech simply because it is not universally appreciated.

    Moreover, the borough cannot use its vague nuisance ordinance to single out only Lt. Commander Corney’s musical expression for censorship from the range of sounds that are part of the borough’s regular sonic landscape. The borough has not ordered Lt. Commander Corney to lower the volume of taps or claimed he has violated a noise-level ordinance.

    And it could not claim such a violation because the recording neither exceeds any established noise levels nor is it as loud as many other sounds the borough tolerates — including many sounds that do not communicate a message, like lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and vehicles. Censoring clearly protected expression, like taps, for being too loud, while allowing louder sounds that carry no constitutionally protected message turns the First Amendment on its head.

    The borough has decided that taps alone, among the other musical sounds in the borough, must be silenced. The borough may not make this type of “content-based” distinction without some compelling reason, which doesn’t exist in this situation.

    Last week, the ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter to the borough council to insist that Glen Rock drop its threat to fine Lt. Commander Corney and honor his First Amendment right to free expression. The dispute is not yet resolved, but on Friday the borough indicated that it would review the ACLU’s demand at its regularly scheduled July 19 meeting. In the meantime, Lt. Commander Corney will resume his nightly ritual.

    Free-speech cases often arise in unusual settings. Some people may be surprised that a serviceman’s broadcast of taps — a song widely regarded as patriotic and intended to honor the sacrifices of those who place themselves in harm’s way to fight for our constitutional rights — would end up being the focus of a First Amendment censorship battle. This controversy is a reminder that no matter who you are or your station in life, you may need the Constitution.

    https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-free...endment-rights

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Too bad the Lt. Commander's neighbors didn't try to work some kind of accommodation before filing a complaint. We here church bells al the time, it's something you just get use too. Growing up when the Army fort fired the 5 o'clock howitzer and played taps all the kids in the neighborhood knew it was time to head home, wash our hands, and set the table for dinner.
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    If he isn't outside the noise ordinance some people need to get over it. If he were doing it 11 or midnight I could see a valid complaint as most places have a limit on noise at that time.

    Reminds me of when my neighbor showed up banging on my door at three am wanting to discuss something. I mean seriously 3AM!!! Lucky for him I was up practicing the trumpet.
    Tom

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Ian, You are really active today. Local governments often tend to make really bad decisions couched in supposed law. Its like they act and wait to see if it will fly. The same thing goes on here in my town and it usually takes some overt action by concerned citizens to get things straight again. Officials don't like to have their authority questioned and will fight to preserve their egos. Makes no difference if its the local council member or POTUS. In this state, the more usual debate is about flags or signs on an individual's property.

    Within reason, I support the Taps player and the above.
    Tom L

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    It baffles me that some small town governmental body thought that this would go their way.
    I mean.... the public outcry, media attention, and lawsuit are all completely predictable consequences of this enforcement action.

    Taps at 8pm hardly strikes me as nuisance noise.

    My town's air-raid siren goes off anytime any emergency personnel are deployed for any reason. That's nuisance noise.

    There used to be a jackass on a Grand Banks 36 in Hamburg cove who would fire a deck-cannon salute when striking the colors at sunset. That's nuisance noise.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Without making any judgments about the appropriateness of playing taps in this manner....

    ...I DO wish that people wouldn't presume that an expression of a first amendment right means that someone has to constantly throw it in other's faces. The American flag, and the playing of taps, COULD indicate a commitment to patriotism and respect for our soldiers... but like anything else, it can wear itself out and render itself meaningless.
    "Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norman Bernstein View Post
    Without making any judgments about the appropriateness of playing taps in this manner....

    ...I DO wish that people wouldn't presume that an expression of a first amendment right means that someone has to constantly throw it in other's faces. The American flag, and the playing of taps, COULD indicate a commitment to patriotism and respect for our soldiers... but like anything else, it can wear itself out and render itself meaningless.


    I don't agree that he should be doing it every evening, it would get tiresome I'm sure, but I do believe he is within his rights and laws to do it.

    If this were a church playing bells at noon I doubt the conversation would even be happening. As long as he is within the hours that no noise ordinance is in effect then he can play it.

    I practice the saxophone outside at the lake often between 9am and 8 pm. Well within the noise hours. I do try to be respectful of people sleeping in but at the same time, it's what I enjoy doing.

    I don't enjoy the loud stereos on the ski boats passing my house, but they are within their rights. (Usually)


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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wilkinson View Post
    I don't agree that he should be doing it every evening, it would get tiresome I'm sure, but I do believe he is within his rights and laws to do it.

    If this were a church playing bells at noon I doubt the conversation would even be happening. As long as he is within the hours that no noise ordinance is in effect then he can play it.

    I practice the saxophone outside at the lake often between 9am and 8 pm. Well within the noise hours. I do try to be respectful of people sleeping in but at the same time, it's what I enjoy doing.

    I don't enjoy the loud stereos on the ski boats passing my house, but they are within their rights. (Usually)


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    I'm not questioning the 'right' of this person to do it... I'm merely commenting on the propriety of doing it, and whether it advances his own perspective at the expense of others. There are MANY things we can do, as a 'right'.... but some of them might be argued to be inappropriate or inconsiderate of others.

    As for me, if I listened to 'taps' playing every evening, it would soon lose any meaning it might have been expected to convey.
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    So, it's nothing to do with Taps. It's noise complaints. The noise happens to be Taps, but nobody is complaining about Taps, per se. Sort of misleading to say it's about Taps.

    I don't see where the people are complaining about content. The neighbors at my mom's play really hateful sounding rap music at loud volume, but not too loud, and not early or late. It bothers her to hear all the swears and harsh messages, but she actually enjoys some of the beats and rhythms.

    I'm sure my mom would love it to be Taps she hears instead of... Well, I've heard songs that make ME blush.

    Stay within the noise limits and all is good. Period.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    He sounds like a rude jerk, holding his neighbors hostage to his broadcasts. The town's compromise was reasonable accomodation of his rights and the neighbors' right to peaceful and quiet enjoyment around their homes.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    The Coast Guard station at Chatham Light is in a dense residential neighborhood. Daily they start with Revellie in the morning, Taps at night, and everything in between.

    While as a matter of personal taste if find both the use of a recording, rather than live bugle, and the whole daily bit overdone, it's not really intrusive and it is clear that the objection is content, not noise, oriented.

    This is why we have ACLU - to defend the rights of people with whom we might disagree and even find disagreeable.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    What kind of people could possibly object to Taps? I'd just prefer that it be sounded at sundown. Woods Hole used to have a siren on the fire station on Water Street. Everyone calibrated their day around the noon siren blast. Sure, it made the tourists jump if they were too close, but small towns should have little unique traditions like that, and Taps could be just such a one. The town should be supporting this guy especially considering all the other noises that permeate our world.
    A society predicated on the assumption that everyone in it should want to get rich is not well situated to become either ethical or imaginative.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    If the objections are not content based, then the town may lawfully place time, place and manner restrictions on the relevant expression.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    to me this fits in with the forced/coerced removal of memorials... in that regard, I think I know who started this
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    The Citadel in Halifax fires a cannon at precisely noon every day. People set their watches by it. Tourists think it quaint, after their heart rate slows a bit. It is so ordinary in that city that no-one thought to inform Bill Clinton's security detail when he visited for a G-7 conference in 1995. I was in a high-rise office tower watching the Prez's entourage leave Province House and walk down the street to the building where they would have lunch. Cannon goes "BOOM!", secret service guys do their thing with lots of drawn guns and running about, and spectators did what comes naturally - laugh. Bill was - like most tourists - amused, but the secret service, not so much...
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    I wish we had the freedoms that all these folks died for.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by mmd View Post
    The Citadel in Halifax fires a cannon at precisely noon every day. People set their watches by it. Tourists think it quaint, after their heart rate slows a bit. It is so ordinary in that city that no-one thought to inform Bill Clinton's security detail when he visited for a G-7 conference in 1995. I was in a high-rise office tower watching the Prez's entourage leave Province House and walk down the street to the building where they would have lunch. Cannon goes "BOOM!", secret service guys do their thing with lots of drawn guns and running about, and spectators did what comes naturally - laugh. Bill was - like most tourists - amused, but the secret service, not so much...
    Heh. I can imagine him laughing at that. I know W would have laughed, too. He would probably have laughed till he cried. "Your new nickname is Spooky. Hehe. And you're Jumpy. Hehe." Obama would have chuckled that chuckle of his for sure. This new guy? I don't think so.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    The news did a story a while back about an old dude who steps out on his deck each night at sunser and blows taps through a real bugle. In this case, the neighbors love it. One commented that it is calming, to take a break when day turns to night.
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Good for the ACLU and the El-Tee; I hope they prevail.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    A small rural town in Pennsylvania. That means "hick".

    Does anyone doubt that motorcycles roar through that place on a regular basis with their exhaust pipes as open as they can make them? I'd rather hear taps every night than one cycle one time each year.

    I wish him well.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    This is near where I live and has been in the paper quite a bit.

    One fact that the letter writer does not include is that Corney has put three loud speakers up on a pole on his property and plays this amplified music in such a way that it is projected well off of his property and into his neighbors private property. See the photo below. Note that he changed the directions of the speakers to accommodate one neighbor, but then another neighbor complained. Is anyone surprised?

    This is starting to exceed his free speech rights and infringe on his neighbors rights to peace and quiet within their own homes. He is not doing this in front of the state capital, or putting a message on a billboard. He is forcing this on his neighbors at a place where they should have an expectation that they can be completely free from listening to his "speech."

    Should he be allowed to walk down the street with a real bugle (and maybe an amplifier), stand at the end of your driveway, and play taps toward your house at 8 pm each night because he thinks you ought to hear it? How would that be different?


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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    I think the complainer must have some special pull in that little burg.

    There is a whole symphony of bugle calls played through the day on an Army post - Reveille at 0500; Mess Call at 0600, 1200 and 1800; at 1700 Retreat sounds then a cannon shot rings out followed by To The Color (still gives me goose bumps to hear that) at which all activity stops (pedestrians and vehicles stop, drivers "dismount"), everyone faces the flag and salutes. Prepare for "lights out" is signaled by Tattoo at 2130 then Call to Quarters 15 minutes later and the day's end is marked by Taps at 2200.

    That's a long day.
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Palmer View Post


    I no nothing on this subject other than what is on this thread.

    At the risk of judging a book by it's cover ....... that guy looks like a dick!
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by Norman Bernstein View Post
    I'm not questioning the 'right' of this person to do it... I'm merely commenting on the propriety of doing it, and whether it advances his own perspective at the expense of others. There are MANY things we can do, as a 'right'.... but some of them might be argued to be inappropriate or inconsiderate of others.

    As for me, if I listened to 'taps' playing every evening, it would soon lose any meaning it might have been expected to convey.
    I agree with you Norm. His heart may be in the right place as far as his reasoning for playing it, but there is a point where it can be taken too far. Maybe he should learn to play it on the bugle and do that each evening instead. He does appear to be intentionally pushing the limit. I wouldn't consider it neighborly.
    Tom

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Point those speakers straight up. Give all the gods an earful.
    "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Alice

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Wouldn't bother me. Wonder how many of the objectors are like Trump (never served), nor attended Boy Scout Camp (where they played it every evening).

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    The city could get some CYA by giving noise citations to Harleys and S birds with car stereos. Two boids, one stone. Peace in the valley.
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    The city could get some CYA by giving noise citations to Harleys and S birds with car stereos. Two boids, one stone. Peace in the valley.
    go for the lawn mowers
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by SKIP KILPATRICK View Post
    I no nothing on this subject other than what is on this thread.

    At the risk of judging a book by it's cover ....... that guy looks like a dick!
    I feel avoided

    Quote Originally Posted by Phillip Allen View Post
    to me this fits in with the forced/coerced removal of memorials... in that regard, I think I know who started this
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    I think that a fitting accompaniment for Mr. Corney's playing of "Taps" through megaphones every evening would be to play the final crescendo of the 1812 Overture, complete with cannons. Loud. Aimed at his house.

    I would respectfully salute through both recordings.
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by Phillip Allen View Post
    to me this fits in with the forced/coerced removal of memorials... in that regard, I think I know who started this
    Do tell!


    Quote Originally Posted by SKIP KILPATRICK View Post
    ... that guy looks like a dick!
    Yip!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wilkinson View Post
    I agree with you Norm. His heart may be in the right place as far as his reasoning for playing it, but there is a point where it can be taken too far. Maybe he should learn to play it on the bugle and do that each evening instead. He does appear to be intentionally pushing the limit. I wouldn't consider it neighborly.
    Exactly. Learn to play it on a bugle, bugle away, unamplified. Those speakers just reek of douchebaggery.

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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicholas Scheuer View Post
    Wouldn't bother me. Wonder how many of the objectors are like Trump (never served), nor attended Boy Scout Camp (where they played it every evening).
    As I mentioned above I grew up next to an Army fort, my Father worked as an engineer there for 35 years. My parents won't left me join the Boy Scouts, they reminded them of the Hitler Youth!
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Palmer

    Now that is obnoxious. I thought the guy was playing the music loudly on his home stereo system. That would be one thing. Three loudspeakers on a telephone pole is something else altogether.

    No surprise that the ACLU is defending him. They tend to take extreme positions with regard to interpreting the 1st Amendment.

    He should be allowed to play taps on his home stereo equipment as loudly as he can stand it. But the loudspeakers should have to go.

    This guy must be a real tool.

    Deja Moo: The feeling that you have heard this bull before.


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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    I expect that the town's attitude would have been the same had he been playing Taps, the Marseillaise, Beethoven, or the Grateful Dead. Still, it's only a minute, but really, three loudspeakers?
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    Default Re: ACLU Defends "Taps"

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Wilson View Post
    three loudspeakers?
    Looks like the guy was in search of a Constitutional fight!

    I stand by #23
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