CINCINNATI (CN) – City Beat, an alternative weekly, claims a coalition of churches and government officials violated its 1st Amendment rights – and whacked 25% off its ad revenue – by a letter and press conference demanding that the newspaper stop accepting ads from “adult oriented” businesses.
City Beat and its corporate parent, Lightborne Publishing, sued Citizens for Community Values and dozens of people and organizations that endorsed the June 6 letter that demanded “that the newspaper refrain from accepting and publishing advertisements for adult oriented businesses.”
City Beat demands damages “in the amount of lost advertising and business revenue that has resulted from Defendants’ campaign to violate the paper’s civil rights and tortious interference with its business relationships”.
City Beat sued numerous elected officials who allegedly endorsed the letter, and the organizations they allegedly represent, including a sheriff, three county attorneys, the Cincinnati police chief, and numerous ministers and women’s groups.
The free weekly says it “relies almost exclusively on advertising revenue for its continued existence,” and that since the June 9 press conference on the steps of City Hall, its ad revenue has declined by almost 25 percent.
“City Beat believes in the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech and does not attempt to censor the free expression of its advertisers,” the newspaper says. It claims the defendants chilled its 1st Amendment rights and tortiously interfered when the defendants wrote, and spoke.
“The inclusion of governmental officials, and in particular those who are responsible for enforcing and prosecuting criminal laws in the greater Cincinnati area, can have no other impact but to chill City Beat’s free expression by forcing it to self-censor or face possible prosecution,” the complaint states.
It specifically objects to a press release posted on the home page of the Citizens for Community Values “that accuses City Beat of functioning as ‘greater Cincinnati’s primary outlet for solicitation and promotion of prostitution and related services.'”
City Beat demands an injunction ordering the defendants to stop chilling its 1st Amendment rights, and conspiring to violate them, and money for tortious interference. It is represented in Federal Court by H. Louis Sirkin with Sirkin, Pinales and Schwartz.