Supreme Court sides with church in freedom of speech case

Supreme Court sides with church in freedom of speech case

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Arizona town violated the First Amendment when it prevented a local church from posting temporary signs for its church services.  

In a unanimous ruling, the justices said the sign code violated the freedom of speech rights of the Good News Community Church.


The case — Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Ariz. — centered on the Gilbert’s sign code, which the church's pastor, Clyde Reed, challenged in court after the church was cited for violations. The town said the church failed to include an event date on the signs and had exceed the time limit for the signs, which were put up around town to notify churchgoers of the time and location of services. 

Under the town’s code, outdoor signs are prohibited without a permit unless the signs communicate a message or idea, are political or a temporary directional sign.

To qualify as a temporary directional signs, the code says the sign must direct the public to a church or other “qualifying event.”

In his opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit erred when it said the sign code is content-neutral because the town’s regulation was not based on a disagreement with the message conveyed on the sign.

“A law that is content-based on its face is subject to strict scrutiny regardless of the government’s benign motive, content-neutral justification, or lack of animus toward the ideas contained in the regulated speech,” he said.