Halloween and the first amendment

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mississippi is in the headlines again. Not for being last in graduation rates, not for being last in living healthy, but because one county’s Board of Supervisors decided to ban the use of clown costumes during Halloween.

So, what happens to residents in Kemper County who decide to don a creepy, or silly, clown costume during the upcoming holiday? The Kemper County Board of Supervisors gave their sheriff’s department the authority to fine violators up to $150.

The reason they set the ordinance into motion? Not because there has been an issue of clowns accosting or scaring people locally, but due to the national coverage of reported incidents of clowns standing in the woods trying to scare people. Additionally, they fear what people may do if they saw a person in a clown costume in their yard.

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“It wouldn’t be good,” Kemper County Board of Supervisors President Johnny Whitsett said at the meeting where the Board set the ordinance, according to the Kemper County Messenger.

What this Board has forgotten is many of those national reports of clowns scaring people were determined to be hoaxes.

It’s sad that a governing body within Mississippi doesn’t have faith in the mental strength of its residents. I can only assume they think people will faint or die of a heart attack if they saw a clown approach their front door on Halloween night, proclaiming, “Trick-or-treat!”

Such an ordinance puts our personal freedoms in jeopardy. To tell a community’s residents that wearing a particular costume during a holiday designed for dressing up is on the unconstitutional side.

County governments should be more concerned with realistic threats, such as keeping children safe while trick or treating. Additionally, their deputies should be putting more effort into preventing the vandalism that typically occurs during Halloween rather than looking for clowns to issue citations.

In short, let them be clowns.