Local kudos first, politics last, while free speech still exists

Let’s lead off this week’s mullet wrapper by congratulating Coach Mark Dettwiller and the Fairfield Lady Lions for winning their third consecutive district championship.

The Lady Lions improved to 19-1 on the season Saturday, May 20, winning their third consecutive Division IV Southeast District championship by defeating the Peebles Lady Indians, 10-1, in Minford.

As reported by HCP sports editor Stephen Forsha, Fairfield starter Kaiti White pitched all seven innings, allowing one earned run on four hits and a walk, while fanning eight batters.

“Winning three straight district titles is pretty much unheard of,” Coach Dettwiller said. “The girls came to work and got the job done. I’m proud of them. I’m impressed with what they’ve accomplished.”

Congratulations, Coach Dettwiller and Lady Lions, and a special thanks to Coach Tom Purtell for his timely assistance throughout the years.

For the complete game story, video and photos on Fairfield’s tournament championship, see Stephen’s coverage at: http://www.highlandcountypress.com/Content/Default/Rotator-Articles-/Article/Fairfield-Lady-Lions-3-peat-as-district-champions/-3/546/38776.

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After reading Tim Stried’s wonderful story on McClain senior Kaylee Hurley, former Highland County Commissioner Harriet Fenner summed it up very well with her online comment: “If this young lady doesn’t inspire everyone, nothing will. Only the best, Kaylee!”


As Tim shared in the latest Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Magazine, at age 12, Kaylee experienced a stroke in her lower back, as somehow blood had been cut off from the area. The damage was permanent. She spent three months at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. After about a month, the swelling had gone down enough for the doctors to know the damage for sure – paralysis. The news came as a shock to her family.

Kaylee is now a three-time state track and field champion. And this past week, Kaylee walked with the McClain High School class of 2017 down the historic marble staircase inside Edward Lee McClain High School – a commencement-day tradition since the building opened in 1916. (It’s school tradition that students are permitted to descend that particular flight of stairs for the first time on their graduation day.)

Congratulations, Kaylee, and all 2017 graduates.

For Tim Stried’s story, go to http://www.highlandcountypress.com/Content/Default/Rotator-Articles-/Article/Heart-soul/-3/546/38753.

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While visiting one my favorite newspaper industry websites recently, I came across columns by Jeanette Sekan of the Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise. Jeanette has the enviable good fortune of writing for the Cody Enterprise.

The Cody Enterprise was founded by W.F. Buffalo Bill Cody and Col. John Peake in August 1899.

My family lore has it that my paternal grandfather, Bud Ryan, was part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, billed as an “outdoor extravaganza that dramatized some of the most picturesque elements of frontier life,” including Indian fights, a Pony Express rider and Custer’s last stand.

Given my family’s dubious history, I like to think that my grandfather most likely played Custer. His famous last line was “Where did all those Indians come from?”

As I was saying prior to interrupting my own train of thought on a short track to nowhere, Jeanette Sekan and the Cody Enterprise have graciously permitted The Highland County Press to share her columns with our readers. Jeanette has informed me that she used to live in Ohio, and she has a brother in Cincinnati. In turn, I informed Jeanette that Casper, Wyoming is named after Hillsboro native Caspar Collins. Small world, eh?

Here’s a passage from one of Jeanette’s recent columns that caught my attention: “I’ve been reminded of the inherent checks and balances that will supposedly make cooler heads prevail; something that, up to now, I have also viewed as the defense of our Constitution and this young experiment in democracy called America. I fear we are living at a time when those checks and balances are compromised to the point where they no longer provide that defense.”

Not only is that observation accurate on the national level, it also has similar applications on the local and state levels.

I hope you enjoy Jeanette’s columns. If not, just give me a call, and I’ll issue a prompt refund!

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Along with “checks and balances” in government, this great republic also has had a longstanding tradition of respecting free speech (John Adams’ Sedition Act notwithstanding).

That’s not necessarily the case here in the Buckeye State, thanks to a powerful one-party ruling system in state government.

A federal lawsuit has been filed to correct that egregious governmental overreach.

As reported by the Portage County TEA Party (http://www.portagecountyteaparty.com/), “In a federal lawsuit brought by the UCLA School of Law and an Ohio attorney, three Ohio-based plaintiffs are challenging a recently enacted Ohio law (HB 151) that purports to criminalize constitutionally protected political and other expression on the Internet on First and 14th Amendment grounds.

“Raymond V. Vasvari, Jr. of Cleveland has teamed up with Eugene Volokh of the Scott & Cyan Banister First Amendment Clinic UCLA School of Law to represent Tom Zawistowski, on behalf on the the Portage County TEA Party, Inc., Joseph Mismas, on behalf of Plunderbund LLC, and John Michael Spinelli, an free-lance author who reports on politics in Ohio and beyond.

The three plaintiffs and their counsel are suing, in their official capacity, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Portage County Prosecuting Attorney Victor Vigluicci and Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien, to contest the constitutionality only of the prohibitions in HB 151 [O.R.C. 2917.21(B)(2)], which became effective Aug. 16, 2016.”

I hope the plaintiffs win, and it’s appropriate that this case is in federal court.

The misguided Ohio law is all too familiar to the Sedition Act of 1798. In essence, the act banned public opposition to the government. Fines and imprisonment could be used against those who write, print, speak or publish almost anything against the government. I wrote about this a few months ago at http://highlandcountypress.com/Content/Opinions/Opinion/Article/Fake-news-and-the-return-of-the-Sedition-Act/4/22/37354.

In the current case filed in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division, the lawsuit does not contest the prohibition in the law on threatening expression, just that part of the law against abusing and harassing speech.

According to the Portage County TEA Party, “The three plaintiffs, who routinely engage in constitutionally protected speech that may be considered provocative by some, are concerned with the following clause in HB 151 as it relates to opinions they may express online about politicians and/or elected officials: “No person shall knowingly post a text or audio statement or an image on an internet website or web page for the purpose of abusing, threatening or harassing another person.

“In their capacity as authors and publishers who write, or whose members write and disseminate through the internet, articles and opinion pieces regarding politics generally and Ohio politics specifically, including articles that from time to time include invective, ridicule and strong language intended to mock, lampoon or call into question the actions, motives and public policy positions of various figures – including without limitation politicians, and the incumbents in and contenders for various public offices. Plaintiffs fear these articles and opinions put them at a credible risk of criminal prosecution under Section 2917.21(B)(2) as when they condemn, sharply criticize or mock government officials and other public figures – should police or prosecutors ‘believe’ their posts were written with the purpose of abuse or harassment.

“Furthermore, the exemption of ‘media’ from this statute is considered by the plaintiffs to be an outrageous and audacious attempt to place Ohio’s citizens in a second class, a lower class, in regard to their First Amendment Rights to free speech and particularly free political speech.”

I agree.

The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Surely, the Republican-controlled Ohio government has some respect for the Founders’ First Amendment. If not, the thin-skinned leaders of the Free Rent Party – not to be confused with the Free Soil Party – ought to find real work instead of trying to supersede the U.S. Constitutional Amendment No. 1.

But then again, we must remember the words of former Columbus, Ohio newspaperman Oscar Ameringer who said, “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.”

And no one is allowed to speak out against it.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.