Give 'Em A Sign

directional sign regulations supreme court debateRemember our post from a couple weeks ago about the business sign debacle up in Stockbridge Massachusetts? Back in December, a sign committee was formed in Stockbridge to address the growing number of business signs in their downtown area. Doesn’t sound like a big deal does it? On one side of the argument is the sign committee who do not agree with these signs littering the city when they are placed nowhere near the business that they are advertising for. On the other side of the argument lie the business owners, who say that because the city is so old and laid out in a way that makes it very difficult for potential customers to find them, they need the signs.

In the same blog post we briefly mentioned another similar case of business sign regulations rubbing local businesses the wrong way. This second case occurred in Gilroy, Arizona and was the result of the popularity of neon signs and signs covering business windows. According to a recent article by NPR, this constant friction between business owners and local governments is not a new thing and is in fact, a constant problem.

According to NPR , “Sign regulation is a thorn in the side of local governments. They get sued over these rules all the time, and the lower courts are divided over what constitutional standard to use in evaluating these regulations.” At long last, the issue will be addressed by the highest court in the land, The United States Supreme Court.

In yet another case of local businesses locking horns with sign regulation enforcers, Pastor Clyde Reed of Good News Community Church in Gilbert, Arizona is taking his cause the distance. Pastor Clyde as we will call him, is the pastor of a wandering church. Unlike traditional church services that occur once or twice a week in a fixed location, Good News Community Church has not been this lucky. Every week the location of the church services change to whatever venue is available, and is currently located inside the auditorium of a local school.

So what’s the problem? With the location of the weekly service constantly changing, posting a sign a mere 12 hours prior to the event may not seem like enough. As current Gilbert sign regulations state as told by NPR, “Such directional event signs are limited to 6 square feet and can be posted just 12 hours before the event and must be removed afterward.” As a result of the current sign regulations, avid churchgoers would be forced to wander throughout town looking for signs starting anywhere from eight to ten pm the night before if the service were to take place at eight or ten the following morning like most churches.

The sign is being considered a directional sign and not a religious one therefore is falling under scrutiny. Pastor Clyde’s lawyer asserts that the sign regulations as they currently stand, don’t just regulate the signs themselves, but also free speech. After much debate, the issue is going all the way to the Supreme Court to be decided once and for all.

Should signs regulations be implemented on a case by case basis? Is this particular case limiting the free speech rights of Pastor Clyde and Good News Community Chruch? Sound off in the comments below and let us know your thoughts!