Country Music Fest Files 1st Amendment Suit Against State Health Dept.

File photo, Jamie, CC BY 2.0

Jun 16, 2020

The Bellwether Music Festival (and its producer ESK Presents), Country Fest music festival and Mark W. Miller — an “Ohio citizen” and potential concertgoer — have sued Dr. Amy Acton in her former capacity as the director of the Ohio Department of Health, along with the Warren County Health District and Stark County Combined General Health for violating both their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The lawsuit was filed June 11, before Dr. Acton resigned from her position at ODH that afternoon.

Bellwether, which takes place in Waynesville, Ohio, was scheduled for Aug. 6-8, 2020 and had pivoted to an Americana focus this year.

This week, the music fest officially canceled the year’s fest due to COVID-19.

“The safety and health of our guests, artists, partners, and staff are always our first priority,” said Bill Donabedian, Bellwether Music Festival co-founder.

Country Fest is a multi-day country music festival held outside of North Lawrence, Ohio. So far, this event is still on.

And Miller, the other party in the lawsuit, is just a guy who other media outlets have identified as the same Miller and COAST anti-tax activist involved in the Gang of Five Cincinnati City Council text scandal lawsuit.

The law claims that Dr. Acton’s “arbitrary and ad hoc” orders, which still currently ban mass gatherings like music festivals, are overreach and extend beyond her legal capacity as director and veer into the territory of unconstitutional.

Bellwether says that her orders would prevent concertgoers from being able to “fully and robustly engage in or enjoy the musical and related activities that occur as part of the Bellwether Music Festival.”

The suit also claims that if they had to cancel the event as a result, they would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and that they have already spent $400,000 on booking performers.

For Miller’s part, the suit says:

“MARK W. MILLER desires to attend and camp at the forthcoming Bellwether Musical Festival so as to enjoy the three days of musical entertainment and activities, as well as engaging in the interactive communication that occurs with others in attendance.

MARK W. MILLER has not been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus nor, to his knowledge, has he been exposed to any individual who has been infected with the COVID-19 virus. This notwithstanding, AMY ACTON has issued decrees that infringe and violate the First Amendment and liberty interests of MARK W. MILLER … ” Read more.