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Capitol rules tightened, though not yet on rotunda displays


Published:   |   Updated: March 7, 2014 at 04:36 PM

Though Capitol Police have tightened the rules on active protests in the building, a new policy on passive free speech displays may still be in the works.

Spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger released the new protest rules Thursday, in response to last summer’s takeover of the Capitol rotunda by a group of students and others known as the “Dream Defenders.”

The highlights are:

♦ No overnight stays.

♦ No preparing food or beverages without prior approval.

♦ No hanging out in the building beyond 30 minutes after any official meeting that runs late.

Over the winter holiday season, however, another dispute arose over which displays were allowed in the rotunda.

The New York-based Satanic Temple’s holiday display -- a diorama of an angel falling into hell -- was turned down for being “grossly offensive during the holiday season.”

But regulations of the Department of Management Services, which reviews and approves proposed displays on state property, don’t mention or define the term “grossly offensive” as a reason for rejecting an exercise of free speech.

Other displays, including a “Festivus” pole, a Flying Spaghetti Monster display and a banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, were approved, as was a Christian nativity scene.

Department spokesman Ben Wolf said the rules governing public areas of state buildings would be reviewed.

Reached Thursday, Wolf didn’t immediately know the status of any rule changes but said he’s checking and will report back Friday.

UPDATE: In an email on Friday, Wolf wrote, “We do not have an update. The process is still under review.”

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