ACLU of Georgia takes a case for Peachtree NORML

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  — Margaret Mead

Background

In June of 2016 members of Peachtree NORML began a practice of visiting official law enforcement Facebook pages when marijuana bust “brag” posts were put up.  We began expressing our opinions on those posts.  Those opinions were often deleted from these official pages and the citizens making them were blocked from commenting.  These actions are an abridgment of a citizen’s First Amendment Right to criticize a governmental official or entity.  Sheriff Joey Terrell of Habersham County, Georgia was one of the officials who deleted dissenting comments.  We decided to contact the ACLU, and they decided to take up our case for us.

The ACLU sent a letter to Sheriff Terrell, demanding that he cease the practice of deleting dissenting comments and restore commenting capabilities to those persons who had been blocked from the page.  Initially, Hunt & Taylor Law Group replied to the letter, stating the following:

Mr. Young:
We are the county attorneys for Habersham County, Georgia. While we technically do not represent the Sheriff as he is an elected official and we are retained to represent the Board of Commissioners and various county departments that are not headed by elected officials, we do, on occasion, respond to requests from those elected officials of the County who seek advice. In that regard, the Sheriff shared with us your letter regarding his FaceBook page. He was concerned that it was his personal FaceBook account and contained information that he wanted to share about the Sheriff’s office. I explained to him that as the elected sheriff of Habersham County, he was the “face” of the department – even on his personal FaceBook page. He understands now that he cannot censor comments even on his account. He has advised me that he will make changes to his account and no longer receive any kind of comments but rather use it as an “announcement page”. I personally know very little about FaceBook and do not know exactly how that will be accomplished. My understanding is that his account will no longer be interactive as he is concerned about responses that will not be appropriate – such as bad language. He will now only post news items.
Donnie Hunt
County Attorney
Habersham County, Georgia

 

I personally felt Sheriff Terrell was taking the coward’s way out but to his credit, so far, he has acquiesced to our demands, restored the ability to comment to those who were blocked, and is still allowing comment.  His post concerning the matter has a bit of a “whine” to it, though, and I’ll let you the reader determine if the Sheriff’s “personal” page is really personal, since it is riddled with the trappings of his Office.

I am going to have to make some changes to my Facebook page because of this letter. This account is my personal account…

Posted by Habersham Co. Sheriff Joey Terrell on Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Oaths

Elected officials in Georgia are required to swear several Oaths before taking office.  Among them is an Oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  They don’t get to pick and choose which parts of it they will uphold.  They are answerable to US, and we need to hold their feet to the fire when they abridge our rights.

I hope this sends a clear message to ALL elected officials in Georgia regarding deleting dissenting comments from their Facebook pages.  If it doesn’t, and they persist, we’re prepared to take this to the Federal Courts.

Thank Yous

I want to thank Sean Young, ACLU GA’s Legal Director, Fallon Traylor (who was the Policy Advocate when this all got started), and Chris Bruce, the Policy Counsel, who pointed me in the right direction to make this happen.

I also want to thank all the members of Peachtree NORML who took screenshots and shared them with me.  Without them, this couldn’t have happened.  Thank you for standing up!!

Much respect for all of you.

About Author

Tom McCain is a retired Air Force Veteran and retired Georgia Peace Officer. He retired from law enforcement as the Chief Deputy of Johnson County. Tom actively advocates for the reform of Georgia's Criminal Justice System and its Draconic marijuana laws. On 4/17/2017 he was named the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML.

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(4) Comments

  1. A K Winters

    Awesome work! Speak up and change the world around us!

  2. Fred

    Yes

  3. norm

    hate to tell you, you gave up a lot of rights when you made the choice to run for an elected office, that means we get to investigate you when ever we want, both personal and private, do not like it? do not become an elected official.

  4. Paul Cornwell

    You HAVE to push back. Well done!

Comments