Ohio appeals court rejects man’s claim to free speech in mall

Wednesday, February 16, 2000

An Ohio man who was kicked out of a privately owned shopping mall for wearing a Marilyn Manson T-shirt does not have a free-speech claim, a state appeals court has ruled.

In 1997, Paul Lantz wore a T-shirt with the words “MARILYN MANSON” on the front and “EVERLASTING C——–R” on the back to the Franklin Park Mall in Toledo.

A mall security guard ordered Lantz to do one of three things: put a jacket over his shirt, wear his shirt inside-out or leave the mall. Lantz chose to leave.

He then sued in state court, claiming that his free-speech rights had been violated under both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the free-speech provision of the Ohio Constitution.

In 1997, a trial judge granted summary judgment on the free-speech claims, finding that Lantz had no right to free speech on private property.

The Ohio appeals court agreed in its Feb. 11 opinion in Lantz v. Franklin Park Mall Management Corporation. “As to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the United States Supreme Court has spoken, stating that owners of private shopping centers may prohibit unwanted or undesirable speech,” the court wrote.

Lantz contended that he had broader free-speech rights under the Ohio Constitution than under the U.S. Constitution. However, the appeals court rejected this argument, finding that free-speech rights under the Ohio Constitution “are no broader” than free-speech rights under the First Amendment.

Lantz also argued that the trial court had erred by ruling that there was no government involvement in the case. Even though Lantz wore his shirt on private property, he argued that there was state action sufficient to trigger First Amendment protection because Barry DiSalle, the security guard who stopped him, was dressed in his sheriff deputy’s uniform.

However, the appeals court found this to be constitutionally insignificant. “Furthermore, the facts offered disclosed that DiSalle was acting solely as an employee of appellees (the mall owners) when he stopped appellant (Lantz) and asked him to leave the shopping center.”

Mark Prajsner, Lantz’s attorney, was out of the office and unavailable for comment.
Stephen Ahern, attorney for the mall, declined to comment about the court’s opinion.