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Campaign consultant reaches out to ACLU
A Brunswick pastor and political consultant who says he was barred from doing his job days before the Aug. 21 Republican primary runoff is seeking help from a national civil rights group.

Assistant Glynn County Magistrate Judge Steven Morgan signed good behavior warrants Aug. 17 against the Rev. Kenneth Adkins that were sought by Glynn County Commission District 5 Republican candidate Robbie Tucker and board of education District 5 Democratic incumbent Venus Holmes.

Adkins had been advising Tucker and Holmes' political opponents, commission candidate Tashawnta Wells and school board candidate Dee Rogers.

Alleging that Adkins harassed or defamed them in printed and online allegations, Tucker and Holmes sought the warrants -- without citing any laws -- against Adkins on Aug. 10.

Adkins said the ruling by Morgan effectively silenced his political speech and infringed on his First Amendment rights. Wells and Rogers dropped out of their races in response to the ruling.

Adkins said this week he is seeking help from the American Civil Liberties Union, a national organization that advocates for constitutional rights. An ACLU spokeswoman, however, said the organization had no current involvement in the case.

Morgan said in an interview last week his ruling did not keep Adkins from campaigning.

"The warrants simply prohibit (Adkins) from harassing them. I made it very clear in court that it did not keep him from campaigning, talking about their qualifications or anything like that," Morgan said Friday.

Adkins said he got a different impression. "My understanding was that I was not to mention their names on Facebook -- which I have not done," Adkins said. "It was such a vague ruling. Any number of things could be construed as harassment," he said.

Magistrate court proceedings are not recorded, so a transcript of the hearing is not available.

University of Georgia Professor William Lee, who teaches the law of public communication, says harassment is clearly defined in Georgia law -- and it does not include Facebook or other "public communication."

Georgia code outlaws stalking, threatening persons with immediate harm or making repeated or threatening phone calls, but those laws deal with personal communication, not between one person and the public. "It's a very different thing for me to put an ad in the newspaper or post something on the Internet," Lee said.

Laws deal with public communication differently, so the government avoids placing prior restraints on political and public speech, Lee said. "If saying nasty things about people in public places is harassment, we are going to severely constrain political dialogue," Lee said.

Georgia law offers other legal avenues for dealing with allegedly defamatory statements, Lee said.

To say a Facebook post is harassment "really stretches the definition of harassment," Lee said.

Tucker and Holmes did not return phone calls from The News this week.

A follow-up hearing on the warrants is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 14 in Glynn County Magistrate Court.

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