Vigo County man, ACLU of Indiana sue local health department over alleged ban on Facebook

Local News

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A Vigo County man, with the support of the ACLU of Indiana, filed a legal complaint Tuesday and is intending to sue the Vigo County Health Department for first amendment violations after he said he was banned from commenting on the department’s Facebook page.

Doug Springer, a Vigo County resident, is alleging that the county’s Facebook page has banned him from interacting with its posts after he made comments on the page about the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to a graph being posted by the department portraying positive COVID-19 cases in the area, court documents say Springer commented something similar to:

“They are NOT cases; they are positive test results and the majority of them will never get sick from the virus. The very fact that the number of positives without accompanying illness is so high shows that the virus is much less dangerous than it is being portrayed.”

Springer says he was “swiftly banned” from the page after posting the comment, which means all his previous comments on department posts were deleted and that he was blocked from posting any other comments. Now, he is requesting that he be allowed to interact on the page again, and saying that not being able to do so is an infringement on his first amendment right to free speech.

Gavin Rose, an attorney with the ACLU of Indiana, is representing Springer and also asking that the courts make the health department restore any previous comments posted by Springer that may have been deleted when he was banned. In the official complaint filed to the United States District Court’s Terre Haute division, Rose said the banning caused Springer “irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law.”

Also in the complaint, Rose claims that Springer had previously contacted the attorney for Vigo County in May 2020 to speak about undoing the ban but that he received no response. As of 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29, attorneys representing Vigo County had no comment on the filed complaint.

Springer alleges that this situation violates his rights because he was banned “due exclusively to the viewpoint that he expressed in his Facebook comment” and that “this represents improper viewpoint-based discrimination.”

In addition to requesting that Springer be unbanned and his comments be restored, the complaint also asks that Springer be awarded all costs of attorney by the health department and that the county “award all other proper relief”.

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