The 2015 Utah's Freest Cities Ranking

A permission slip to protest?

The Utah Constitution clearly prohibits laws that restrain the freedom of speech:

No law shall be passed to abridge or restrain the freedom of speech or of the press.

However, many municipalities attempt to regulate this freedom through a special event permit process requiring individuals to obtain permission before staging public demonstrations. Some even charge a fee associated with the permit.

Over twenty cities require a permit. While the majority of the cities are willing to waive fees for free speech events, Clearfield, Herriman, Kaysville, Lehi, Provo, and Salt Lake City require fees ranging from $5 to $25.

Farmington recently repealed their ordinance requiring a $50 permit after some protestors challenged the law. This case highlights the constitutional problems of requiring permission from the city prior to exercising a constitutionally protected right. It also underscores the problems with the entire regulatory approach of localities—that government considerations come before individual liberty.

In a free society, citizens should not need to seek permission from government before engaging in constitutionally protected activity or any peaceful activity that does not violate the rights of others. Cities should evaluate their ordinances and ensure that they do not create barriers to citizens exercising their constitutional rights.