TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — In a response filed with the Southern District of Indiana Terre Haute division of United States District Court, the Vigo County Health Department asserted that it did not violate a resident’s First Amendment rights by preventing him from commenting on its Facebook posts.

Doug Springer, a Vigo County resident, is alleging that the department had banned him from interacting with its Facebook page after he made comments on the page about the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the filing, the department admitted to banning Springer, but contended that the speech Springer was involved in was not protected.

Defendant contends the comment made by the plaintiff was inappropriate and unprotected speech in that the plaintiff was attempting to make fraudulent over-generalized statements concerning the potential severity of the COVID-19 illness. Vigo County does not contend every person who contracts COVID-19 ends up with serious symptoms or dies, but to portray the COVID-19 pandemic or the potential outcomes of contracting the virus as being “much less dangerous than is being portrayed” was a fraudulent statement and not protected speech under the 1st Amendment. The plaintiff’s statement indicating that this disease was “much less dangerous than it was being portrayed” is a message the Health Department is not willing to tolerate on its Facebook Page for anyone.

excerpt from court filing submitted by the Vigo County Health Department

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for January 24th. This is a developing story, follow MyWabashValley.com for updates as they become available.