ACLU of Pennsylvania threatens to sue Glen Rock borough for limiting naval officer’s playing of “Taps”

Lt. Commander James Corney

GLEN ROCK, York County — Lt. Commander Joshua Corney has the right to resume his daily rendition of “Taps” without any restrictions from the Glen Rock borough, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said in a letter addressed to borough council President Doug Young.

Furthermore, the letter said, the borough will face a federal lawsuit should it continue its restriction.

The letter was shared with Fox 43 on Wednesday.

Since 2015, Corney, an active naval officer, Glen Rock resident and former member of the borough council, has played a recording of “Taps” every evening before 8 p.m. from loudspeakers 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,” Corney said at the time. “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 Corney, requesting that he limit the tribute to Sundays and holidays. The borough council later said in a clarifying statement it was an attempt at compromise.

The council’s letter also threatened to fine Corney $300 per violation, the ACLU of Pennsylvania letter said.

According to the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the borough has not issued the same threat of penalty to at least two other local institutions that regularly play amplified music, including live music at a nearby restaurant and at a church, which plays hymns twice per day.

In addition, the Pennsylvania ACLU says, 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.