SCOTUS rulings: Of signs and license plates

Friday, June 19, 2015
Charlie Butts (

It took eight years of legal pursuit, but a church in Gilbert, Arizona, has won the day in a Supreme Court case. However, a group in Texas wasn't as fortunate in the high court's ruling in their case.

The Good News Community Church sued the town of Gilbert because of restrictions on its signs. Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco explains that the town's sign ordinance lumped churches in with a disfavored group of sign-placers.

Tedesco, Jeremy (ADF)"So political signs got incredibly good treatment, [as did] ideological signs, homeowners association signs," says the attorney. "They had church signs lumped in with certain other non-profit organizations, and [they] just heavily regulated them almost to the extent they couldn't even place signs."

Under the ordinance, Good News Community Church was allowed to post a sign advertising its services – but only for short periods of time: specifically, from Saturday evenings until Sunday morning.

The church took the case all the way to the Supreme Court – and won in a unanimous ruling announced Thursday. Tedesco summarizes the decision:

"The court said that the sign code violated the First Amendment rights of the church and that the government has no authority to weigh what speech is more important than another form of speech and preferred speech because of those decisions."

The attorney adds that the case "really clarifies a lot of confusion in the law about how that test is applied and clarifies in a way that makes sure that First Amendment free-speech rights are given the preeminent place in our society that they deserve."

The court decision comes eight years after the church filed suit.

A blow to 1st Amendment

In another Thursday ruling, the Supreme Court upheld Texas' refusal to permit a specialty license plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans that would contain a Confederate battle flag. In doing so, says a constitutional attorney who filed a brief in the case, the court has placed a further limit on free speech.

"The State of Texas said that the Sons of Confederate Veterans could not have a specialty license plate to join with the 350 other specialty license plates that they already offer because it would be offensive to some and probably induce things like road rage," explains Thomas More Society attorney Jocelyn Floyd.


"The entire purpose of the free speech is to limit governmental power in the debate," she continues. "By expanding government speech, which is not bound by the First Amendment, they are simply expanding the government's voice – and the cost of that is the people's voice."

The court said the government can limit the speech because the government owns the tags. According to Floyd, that raises the question of constitutional protections for other plates that might be controversial in some people's minds – such as "Choose Life" plates that generate funds for adoption and pregnancy help centers.

"This decision is one where the Supreme Court has radically expanded the government's speech doctrine," she laments. "And as the dissent says, 'They take a large and painful bite out of the First Amendment.'"

Floyd predicts there will be confusion in future cases where people think they have the right to free speech, but the government negates it because the government doesn't agree with the message or believes the message is too controversial.

Consider Supporting Us?

The staff at strives daily to bring you news from a biblical perspective. If you benefit from this platform and want others to know about it please consider a generous gift today.



We moderate all reader comments, usually within 24 hours of posting (longer on weekends). Please limit your comment to 300 words or less and ensure it addresses the article - NOT another reader's comments. Comments that contain a link (URL), an inordinate number of words in ALL CAPS, rude remarks directed at other readers, or profanity/vulgarity will not be approved. More details




What's the big hold-up in 'draining the swamp'?





  Immigrants wept, pleaded for water and pounded on the truck
  Evangelical leaders rally around Kushner amid Russia probe
  Israel removes metal detectors from holy site entrance
  In Google vs. the EU, a $2.7B fine could just be the start
  Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies
Death toll reaches 10 in immigrant-smuggling case in Texas
Trump son-in-law Kushner at Capitol, denies Russia collusion
Democrats mocked over effort to rebrand party


5 reactions to tragic end of Charlie Gard case
McCain's office says he will return to the Senate on Tuesday, day of health care vote.
'Ruthless and vicious' Senate candidate vows to smash establishment
Jared Kushner's meetings were both legal and beneficial
WH indicates Trump would sign new sanctions bill


Cartoon of the Day


Court took too-late action against EPA

A conservative activist is applauding a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the EPA - but he doubts it will help that much.