The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Kansas State University students who were recently detained by Statehouse officials for hanging banners in the Capitol rotunda.
The students went to the Statehouse on March 27th and hung four banners critical of Republican legislative leaders, accusing them of having “blood on their hands” for blocking Medicaid expansion. Officials removed the banners and then imposed a yearlong ban on the students, Jonathan Cole, Katie Sullivan and Nathan Faflick. Republican leaders said the banners were personal attacks that are prohibited by Statehouse rules, and House majority leader Dan Hawkins of Wichita said Medicaid expansion would just be a “cash grab” by large hospitals that would not benefit facilities in rural areas.
The ACLU is arguing that the Statehouse should not impose arbitrary and unnecessary restrictions that suppress political expression. ACLU of Kansas interim director Lauren Bonds said the building belongs to the people of Kansas and by shutting down speech, “the state is preventing our clients from being to exercise their First Amendment right to petition their government.” The ACLU said the current practices at the Capitol are a prior restraint on political expression.