ELKINS – Leaders of the Constitution Party of West Virginia, chased away from last year's National Hunting and Fishing Day at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, seek a federal court order upholding their right to circulate petitions at the event this year.
Denzil Sloan of Wetzel County and Jeff Becker of Inwood filed suit April 18 at U. S. district court in Elkins, asserting their right under U. S. and West Virginia Constitutions to gather signatures at the event.
"The National Hunting and Fishing Day event at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park was and is a particularly desirable event for the CPWV to seek signatures," wrote their attorney, Joseph Wallace of Elkins.
He wrote, "... hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen tend to share the political viewpoint espoused and championed by the CPWV and its candidates."
He identified himself on the complaint as participating attorney for the Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Va.
The complaint asks for an injunction against park superintendent Sam England, who stopped the party's activities at the event last Sept. 22.
The injunction would also apply to director Frank Jezioro of the Division of Natural Resources, who affirmed England's action.
According to the suit, England and Jezioro quoted state law that prohibits "hawking, peddling, soliciting, begging, advertising, or carrying on any business or commercial enterprise" in state parks without written permission from the division director.
The law is "an unwarranted and unjustified restriction on activity protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," Wallace wrote.
The law vests Jezioro with discretion to determine who may exercise fundamental rights in parks, he wrote.
At Stonewall Lake last year, he wrote, park managers allowed exhibitors to set up display booths.
"The booths included exhibitors disseminating information on political causes, such as the preservation of Blackwater Canyon," he wrote.
"As expected," he wrote, "Plaintiff Sloan and the other CPWV members were particularly successful in obtaining signatures…"
Wallace wrote that party members caused no disruption, did not block pedestrian or vehicle traffic, and were respectful of the rights and desires of other persons.
"No member of the public attending the National Hunting and Fishing Day event complained to park or DNR agents and officials," he wrote.
He identified Becker as party chairman and Sloan as last year's chairman.
Wallace wrote, "CPWV's mission is to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity through the election, at all levels of government, of party candidates who will uphold the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States."