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The first-term congressman is holding 20 such meetings across his sprawling, rural district, just as he did a year ago, but hoped to defuse the angry, raucous tone of the 2009 events.

The Rutherford Institute sent Mr. Perriello a letter telling him that his desire to impose a civil tone to the forums does not trump the right to free expression.

John Whitehead, president of the group, called the ban “an act of censorship that cannot be reasoned away on the pretext that it is intended to encourage freedom of speech and to discourage partisan politics.”

The institute wrote to Mr. Perriello after Steven Peters, a Republican “tea party” follower and conservative activist, was stopped from taking signs into two Perriello town-hall meetings. The signs featured a photo of an unshaven, scowling Mr. Perriello and a quote Mr. Peters attributes to Mr. Perriello: “If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing.”

Mr. Kelly said Mr. Perriello will continue discouraging signs in his forums, but won’t keep people from bringing them.


Americans apathetic on health care law

A survey says Americans aren’t feeling any more secure about their medical care after enactment of President Obama’s health care overhaul.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says consumer confidence spiked in April after Obama signed landmark legislation to expand coverage and try to control costs. But confidence levels have since fallen back to what they were last year at the start of an epic congressional debate.

It’s another sign of ambivalence over Mr. Obama’s accomplishment as Democrats campaign to preserve their congressional majorities in the midterm elections. The ho-hum attitude may be because the law’s major benefits don’t take effect until 2014.

From wire dispatches and staff reports