Some folk walking up to Lovettsville’s Bonnie’s for their morning coffee this past Friday were taken aback at the large-lettered sign outside the popular eatery, posted by Warner Workman, the owner of “Minutemen Arms,” a gun dealer, because the sign proclaimed, “Liberalism is evil[,] Arm [N]ow.”
On Facebook last Friday, Ashley pushed back, “I’m so tired of him polluting the town with his [Mr. Workman’s] crap.”
Warner Workman responded, “xoxoxoxo Listen Snowflake .. my current sign is for you.”
Anjel objected to Mr. Workman’s sign for “[t]hreatening harm against those who you are labeling ‘evil.’ Real patriots don’t threaten the opposition with death.”
John said, “He fancies himself a [James] Bond type;” Mr. Workman does state he formerly worked for “the agency” – the CIA.
“This goes so far beyond being simply offensive,” said Susan, “Our children are seeing this …a local [Mr. Workman] implying that arms should be taken up against their liberal parents. I am sickened.”
In response, Mr. Workman offered no consolation; instead, he characterized Susan with the phrase, “Snowflake alert.”
Larry called Mr. Workman a “Classic Bully.”
Mr. Workman said, “Thanks for the free advertisement…got a sale from your [FB] post.”
“If you open your arms to all Americans,” Mike said, “you’ll do better business.”
Mark asked plaintively, “Can I be passionate about my rights to life, liberty and happiness [without] being branded ‘evil’ and targeted by some troll with a gun fetish?”
Harrison asked, “I wonder how the folks at the African Methodist Church right across the road [ on the Berlin Turnpike] feel about having that [sign] shoved in their faces every day.”
Laurie said, “This has taken the LOVE right out of LOVETTSVILLE.”
Mr. Workman changed his sign by Saturday, but not its tone; it now says, “Beware of snowflakes[,] be armed.”
On Friday, Mr. Workman identified Ashley and Susan among those “snowflakes,” against whom we need to “be armed.”
Mayor Bob Zoldos in his weekly newsletter responded to the community’s concerns and demand that the sign be taken down; Bob said, “While I disagree with the content of the sign, I absolutely agree with a citizen’s right to be able to say it.”
The Mayor claimed that the U.S. Supreme Court case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, __U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 884 (2015) prevented him from forcing Mr. Workman to take down the offending sign.
Anjel said that Reed, the case the Mayor cited, had nothing to do with threatening speech; instead, it had to do with temporary directional signs that disfavored a non-profit group in the absence of any rationale such as, for example, might be necessary to eliminate threats to traffic safety.
But here the community’s safety was at issue.
Anjel said everyone should be looking at another U.S. Supreme Court case, Chaplinsky v. N.H, 315 US 568 (1942). In the Chaplinsky case, Mr. Justice Murphy speaking for a unanimous Court, said, “the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances … [including] the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or fighting words – those which by their very utterance inflict injury to tend to incite an immediate breach of peace.”
By way of explanation, the Court said, “It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.”
Lest there be any doubt of the Court’s meaning, the court said, “Resort to epithets or personal abuse is not in any proper sense communication of information or opinion safeguarded by the Constitution, and its punishment as a criminal act would raise no question under that instrument.”
The offending sign, nevertheless, remains outside Bonnie’s Restaurant as we file this report.