Town Demands Tattooed Man Cover Up at Pool
(AKRON, IA) A first amendment showdown is brewing in the town of Akron, Iowa.
Town officials are demanding a resident cover up at the city pool because of the tattoo on his back. The town says it's simply trying to make the pool a place where everyone feels comfortable but Justin Fay says the city is violating his right to free speech.
The pool during summer is a refreshing way to cool off but Justin Fay traveled 26 miles from Akron to the Riverside pool in Sioux City just to swim without covering up.
"I've had two letters from the city pool of Akron, Iowa, telling me I can not go to the pool with my kids with no shirt on so we decided to come out here even though I paid for a pass to the city pool of 90 dollars," says Fay.
The city says the order came after several local swimmers complained about the tattoo saying it was profane and offensive.
Justin says his tattoo reflects his parent's background, one upper-middle class, one from a family of bikers.
Fay received two copies of the same letter - one by mail and the other hand delivered by a city employee telling him to cover up his tattoo or it would revoke his pass.
"Our concern was that he would voluntarily cooperate with us and be willing to cover up the tattoo and I just simply said just cover up the tattoo, whether he choose to put something over it or wear a T-shirt that was up to him," says David Stuart, the Akron City Attorney.
But Justin says asking him to cover it up is discriminatory and infringes on his first Amendment rights.
"If they don't like it, don't look at me. I don't judge you for what you wear to the pool or what you don't wear to the pool. It's just a freedom of speech," says Fay.
The city says there are rule signs posted inside the pool patio. One of those rules prohibits the use of profanity.
Justin says, because he's not saying anything profane, that rule shouldn't apply. The city disagrees and says if this case lands in court Justin's tattoo isn't necessarily protected by the first amendment.
"Ultimately I think it gets into whether or not he's trying to communicate through his tattoos and what he has on his body. Whether or not that's a protected class of speech. I think that's what it's ultimately going to come down to," says Stuart.
"It affects everybody," says Fay. "If they say I can't go to the city pool what happens when I'm walking down the street or working in my yard or anywhere else?"
The city says if Justin doesn't cover up it will revoke his pool pass. Justin says if that happens he will continue his fight.
We want to know what *YOU* think - should Justin have to cover up his tattoo? We've posted that question on our Siouxland News Facebook page. Hop online and weigh in.