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ACLU sues Jackson County Public Library after man was banned for poem critical of President Trump

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Posted at 11:47 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 23:47:56-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a lawsuit against the Jackson County Public Library on behalf of a man who said the library banned him for life over a poem critical of then-President Donald Trump.

According to the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Richard England, 68, who lives outside Seymour.

The ACLU and court filing said in November, England brought an original poem that we wrote titled "The Red Mean," which was critical of President Trump and his followers, intending to give it to an employee whom he believed would enjoy it. The employee was not present and England left the poem in a basket on the circulation desk which contained masks for customers to take if they needed one.

According to the ACLU, because of Mr. England's personal circumstances, he is not able to afford cable television, internet service, or other forms of paid entertainment. Instead, he visited the library approximately twice a week for a decade or more. Over the course of that time, the ACLU said England developed a friendly relationship with several employees of the library and would talk with them while checking out or returning materials.

The ACLU said the poem, while critical of President Trump and his followers, was not vulgar, threatening, obscene or otherwise inappropriate.

When England returned home from leaving the poem, he discovered a voicemail from the Seymour Police Department informing him he was banned from the library for the rest of his life and that if he returned he would be arrested for criminal trespass. England called the library and the circulation manager reportedly told him, "We don't do politics at the library," according to the lawsuit.

WRTV has made multiple attempts to reach officials at the Jackson County Public Library for comment on this story. The station has yet to hear back.

"The library's action banning Mr. England from accessing materials impacts his right to receive information," Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana senior attorney, said. "In addition, the First Amendment protects people who, regardless of their views, attempt to hold the government accountable through expression."