Defending the Bill of Rights - Still Necessary

In Southampton Village, a dispute over whether church and advocacy groups for the Bill of Rights and against the Iraq war could march in the July 4 Independence Day parade was resolved Monday morning, July 3 by a federal judge.

The First Ammendment rights of the groups were affirmed by Judge Joanna Seybert of the Federal Court in Islip. Judge Seybert issued an order saying plaintiffs were able to march and freely engage in political speech at the July 4 parade.

Last month, members of the Peconic Quakers, the South Fork Unitarian-Universalists, the East End Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the East End Vets were told by organizers of the parade, a Southampton Village commission * that they could not march with signs of protest as they had done in previous years.

Attorney James Henry worked diligently to bring this issue to the federal court. At one point over the weekend the attorney for the Village offered to produce a letter from Mayor Mark Epley giving permission to the plaintiffs to march. Their response was to go ahead with the court action, reasoning that the mayor has neither the authority to cancel our First Ammendment rights nor to reinstate them.

In the event, those marching in support of our rights - to free speech, of religion, of the press, to peaceably assemble, to petition the government with greivances, to bear arms, from unreasonable search and seizure and all the rest were roundly applauded by 99 per cent of those who lined the parade route.

We hope that Mayor Mark Epley and the members of the commission have learned something about our system of government. But we know there are some diehards who still don't get it. They were among the handful who pointed thumbs down or refused to take a copy of the Bill of Rights offered by one of the marchers who held a sign with the words "DEFEND THE BILL OF RIGHTS".

That defending the first ten ammendments to the US Constitution is necessary is an unfortunate reality.

Thanks again to the plaintiffs and attorney Jim Henry. A law suit filed by the plaintiffs is still pending and should hopefully prevent another attempt to deprive us of our rights in this burg.

* an earlier account of this controversy incorrectly identified the organizers as a private group.