The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit this month against Boone County, alleging the county violated a resident’s First Amendment rights when it blocked him from the county’s Facebook page.
Kevin Dininger commented on an April 14 post about delays on a justice center expansion, according to the complaint. He wrote that he intended to vote for Boone County commissioner candidate Tim Beyer, who challenged and defeated incumbent Tom Santelli in the May 3 Republican primary.
The county responded by “limiting or disabling any comments on the post, which had the effect of deleting Mr. Dininger’s comment,” the complaint filed May 12 says.
The lawsuit alleges Boone County blocked Dininger after he posted about the incident on his personal Facebook page.
Dininger frequently shares his opinion about county issues on the county Facebook page, and blocking him represents viewpoint-based discrimination, according to the complaint.
The ACLU of Indiana requested in the lawsuit that Boone County unblock Dininger, restore his comments, prohibit the county from blocking Dininger again in the future and require the county provide notice before blocking people from its Facebook page.
“The First Amendment protects people, who regardless of their views, attempt to hold the government accountable through expression,” ACLU of Indiana senior attorney Gavin M. Rose said in a news release. “Boone County’s practice of silencing citizens on Facebook who are critical of the county’s actions is unconstitutional.”
The Boone County commissioners issued a statement Tuesday morning acknowledging the ACLU lawsuit.
“The Boone County Commissioners have received a complaint from the ACLU and take these allegations very seriously,” the statement said. “A thorough internal investigation has been launched into the matter. Updates will be provided and a response will be issued at the conclusion of this investigation. The Commissioners are strong proponents of the First Amendment and believe in everyone’s right to free speech.”
The case is Kevin Dininger v. Boone County, Indiana, 1:22-cv-00927.