Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

April 15, 2008

Courthouse no longer hosting free speech displays

The free speech zone at the courthouse has ended.

After discussing phone calls in response to the variety of displays on the Cumberland County Courthouse grounds, commissioners on the buildings and grounds committee decided to remove all the displays during last Thursday's meeting.

"I hated to see this happen, but I'm going to make a motion that we remove all the displays," said 7th District Commissioner Mike Harvel.

Fifth District Commissioner Sharon York supported the motion and it passed unanimously. As of May 1 all displays must be removed from the courthouse grounds.

The reaction by the county came only a couple weeks after a Flying Spaghetti Monster was placed on the courthouse grounds by local artist Ariel Safdie. The display sparked national interest on blogs and news sites all over the Internet. It even appears in the current Rolling Stone Magazine.

"There has been a lot of public discussion on this. Everywhere I go I'm hearing about it. I've gotten a lot of phone calls over this, too. The reaction I'm getting is that we have one of the most beautiful courthouse lawns in the state. Why distract from it? All the displays are distracting from it ... It's gotten out of hand. It's time for all of it to go," said Lynn Tollett, 3rd District commissioner.

"Well, we've got a few that want displays up for longer than that. The Iraq/Afghanistan War memorial people want it left up until the war's over. There's a group who wanted to do an Earth Day display with a big globe. I already gave the okay," Cumberland County Mayor Brock Hill said.

"It doesn't matter. This takes precedence. As far as I'm concerned this is an eviction notice. Everyone with a display needs to be given a notice that there won't be anymore displays allowed," Tollett said.

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