While the first amendment has been explored from virtually every possible angle, the one question that has long been unresolved since the founding of the Republic is what protection should be afforded to citizens who desire to dress as Bigfoot and scare hikers on federal lands. That question will now be answered in a lawsuit filed by Jonathan Doyle in New Hampshire.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Doyle is contesting the demand of the state that he pay $100 for a special-use permit 30 days in advance and acquire a $2 million insurance bond.
Doyle is an amateur filmmaker who loves to dress up like Bigfoot and scare hikers on New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock. He would then interview the hikers. He was told that he needed a special permit for such filming.
The ACLU is advertising its proclaiming under the legend “Even Bigfoot Knows His Rights.”
In the filing below, the ACLU argues:
In fact, there can be no question but that the plaintiff’s film project was expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment and Part 1, Article 22 of the NH Constitution. The newspaper got it right when it characterized the Bigfoot project as a “performance art piece.” (Exhibit 3 to Doyle Dep.) The plaintiff was using his film to express a message that individual hikers having a solitary experience on the mountain should come together to share a communal experience.
This is not a easy case for the ACLU. Filming permits are common on federal lands. However, the ACLU is citing a damaging email from one of the defendants, Hummel to his supervisor Brian Warburton. The email not only suggests arbitrary enforcement but a lack of actual complaints from hikers:
Labor Day Weekend, aside from the rest of the madness we went through, we had a college student dressed in a Bigfoot costume walking around the summit and trails and having someone videotape him.
Nothing new on Monadnock. Some people mentioned it to Mountain Patrol that day. But as more of an FYI rather than a complaint. We had more than 2,000 people on the mountain that day. We’ve had people do many crazy and absurd things on this mountain over the years. With safety concerns overriding investigating a Bigfoot costume that no one seemed to care about, patrol chose not to pursue the matter and neither did I.
I’ve had film students come into the park before, dress up in costumes, and film for class projects. Most students come and ask permission first. I go over ground rules with them, and make it clear the footage is only to be used for their class project. They film and leave.
This will be interesting to watch. Many people are unaware that in the first draft of his famous Federalist Paper 51, James Madison originally wrote:
Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. If Bigfoots were to be prohibited by the government, neither Bigfoots nor non-Bigfoots would be seen in a free society In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
The Bigfoot reference was removed at the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin who originally wanted Bigfoot to be the nation’s symbol and asserted a trademark claim.
Here is the filing: Doyle.MSJ_