Anglican Watch, the unofficial watchdog of the Episcopal Church, today unequivocally condemned the Marion, Kansas, police department for its search and seizure of the offices of the Marion County Record. Moreover, the police searched the homes of the newspaper’s publishers.
“We reject the police department’s claims that it was investigating potential criminal conduct by the newspaper,” says Anglican Watch editor Eric Bonetti. “Simply saying that the department suspects criminal conduct by newspaper staff does not come even close to complying with the federal Privacy Protection Act or the requirements of the First Amendment.
“Independent media outlets fill a vital role in holding government officials, churches, and others in positions of power accountable. The actions of the Marion Police appear to be nothing more than a poorly concealed effort at retaliation against the paper, especially since the local courts have no record of an Affidavit of Probable Cause,” Bonetti continues.
“Moreover, we know from first-hand experience how local governments, courts, and clergy may collaborate to chill First Amendment-protected activities. We have personally experienced fabricated claims by clergy that we are stalking them, are “domestic terrorists,” and more. And time and again, the courts side with the person in the position of perceived power, even when the underlying claims are facially ludicrous,” Bonetti adds.
“We call on federal law enforcement to investigate this egregious attack on the freedom of the press and demand the immediate resignation of the entire Marion KS police department,” Bonetti concludes. “An attack on one media outlet is an attack on all media outlets, and we hope other publishers will join us in opposing this outrageous conduct.”