Baker County Standard

Macclenny, Florida
February 21, 1996

For the Rainbows, a Constitution matter is issue behind gathering

by Jack Draisey
staff writer

For the Rainbow Family, the matter at issue is the First Amendment to the Constitution: "The Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble..."
They feel that it is their First Amendment right to gather on publicly owned land.
The Forestry Service's attempt to impose a permit restriction on anyone, they feel, is in direct violation of the First Amendment. The latest version of the Forestry Service permit law is that groups above 75 persons must apply for a permit.
The Rainbows are not just a group of unorganized rabble- rousers professing some ethereal ideal -- they are organized and fight within the legal system to maintain their right to gather, and have plenty of experience with this particular battle.
The latest round in the battle was issued by the United States District Court of Jacksonville and is titled "United States of America v. The Rainbow Family, et al." described as a "loosely- knit organization of persons who gather together in the national forests to celebrate peace and harmony with nature and one another."
Already faxes have gone back and forth to Washington, D.C. as well as to the attorneys representing the Rainbows in response to this action.
The United States District Court Middle District of Florida gave the Rainbows the option of having their case heard before a local magistrate, as they do all civil cases, but they will have none of that. They plan, once again, to have their hearing at the federal level.
The two previous cases that were brought against them one in 1984 and again in 1987 went before federal judges who ruled in their favor both times. Those were criminal actions, whereas the latest is a civil case.
The Forestry Service has singled out the Rainbows with this permit requirement, according to "Bullwinkle," a Disabled American Vet who has been among the Rainbows from its outset. Each time they win a case in court, the Forestry Service changes the regulations somewhat so that previous rulings no longer apply. "First it was a permit for 25 people, then 50 people, now it's 75," he said. He stated that their battles with government restrictions are on behalf of all people.
The permit requires no fee, but retains the option of denying the application to any group. The Rainbows feel that the government has no right to require the permits, much less deny any applications to anyone to gather on public lands.
The First Ammendment affects everyone, according to Bullwinkle, "This permit requirement to freely gather currently includes anyone, whether it be the local Baptist church, the Boy Scouts, or the KKK from gathering without applying for the permit."
The latest actions against the Rainbows is a test case to see if the permit requirements are constitutional. It is a civil action suing the Rainbows to comply with "group use regulations."
Part ofthe "Relief Requested" is that the plaintiff (the United States) prays that the court declare that the plaintiff's group use regulations comply with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and are otherwise legally valid. In other words, the plaintiff's are requesting that the court rule that their group use regulations are valid in regards to the First Amendment.
If this is ruled legal, then the plaintiff wants an injunction against the "Rainbows, their officers, employees, agents, servants, contractors, attorneys, and all those acting in concert with them" from gathering in any national forest in violation of the group use regulations.
If ruled in their favor, the Rainbows will continue to gather on publicly-owned land as they have since 1972 when the group was formed.