GLEN ROCK, Pa. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania today issued a letter to the borough of Glen Rock, York County, warning the borough to immediately cease its restrictions on a resident’s daily rendition of “Taps,” an official bugle call of the U.S. military. The letter, which was sent to borough council President Doug Young, notes that the short musical ritual is expression protected by the First Amendment and warns that Glen Rock’s restriction will lead to a federal lawsuit, if it continues.
Since 2015, Lt. Commander Joshua Corney, an active duty naval officer and a Glen Rock resident, has played a recording of “Taps” every evening before 8pm from speakers on his five-acre property.
“I play this audio memorial in remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as those who continue to serve and protect our country and freedoms,” said Lt. Commander Corney. “It is a way to honor a promise I made to God by taking 57 seconds each day to reflect on sacrifices made 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to obtain and sustain our freedoms."
On June 23, the borough issued a cease-and-desist letter to Lt. Commander Corney, insisting that he limit his amplified musical tribute to Sundays and “flag” holidays, under threat of a criminal penalty of 300 dollars per violation.
But the ACLU of Pennsylvania notes that the borough has not issued the same threat of penalty to at least two local institutions that regularly play amplified music, including live music at a nearby restaurant and a church’s twice-daily playing of hymns. In addition, residents’ use of common appliances, such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws, produce noises louder than Lt. Commander Corney’s playing of “Taps.”
“Glen Rock Borough’s censorship of Lt. Commander Corney's playing of ‘Taps’ while allowing lawnmowers, church bells, concerts, motor vehicles and many other noises customarily heard in the town that are even louder and last longer violates the First Amendment,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Lt. Commander Corney has the constitutional right to offer his meaningful tribute every day to his fellow service members from his own home.”
The ACLU of Pennsylvania has asked the borough for a resolution to this matter by 5 p.m. on Friday. If the borough fails to respond, the organization will take “appropriate and necessary legal action” on behalf of Lt. Commander Corney.
A copy of the letter on behalf of Lt. Commander Corney is available at aclupa.org/Taps.