The New Jersey chapter of the The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is accusing the state of forcing visitors to the statehouse to remove political buttons and not having a public policy on the issue.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit Monday for the state refusing to release its policy on wearing buttons, pins or stickers in the statehouse. It had requested the policy under the Open Public Records Act after receiving a complaint from statehouse visitors who were told they would have to remove politically expressive buttons to enter.
"It is completely absurd that the State Police may have a policy restricting what the public can or cannot do, but then refuses to let the public know what the policy actually says," stated ACLU-NJ acting executive director Ed Barocas.
There are no signs at the statehouse nor information posted on the New Jersey Legislature's or the state police's website that informs citizens of the requirement to remove politically expressive clothing, according to the suit.
The ACLU asked for a copy of the policy in June but were denied in an August response.
The Attorney General's office told the ACLU that releasing the information could give away secrets about law enforcement techniques that could put lives at risk.
"It is difficult to fathom how releasing the state's policies on buttons and pins would put the public's lives at risk," Janie Byalik stated in filing the suit for the ACLU.
The state police say there actually is no such rule. State Police Lt. Stephen Jones told the Associated Press that political pins and buttons are allowed in the capital building and that the 1997 rules covering the use of State House grounds are public.
The suit was filed in Superior Court in Mercer County.