In a unanimous decision Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that freedom of speech trumps the whims of local bureaucrats. Reed v. Town of Gilbert also provided a victory for religious expression as the plaintiff represents a small church in the Arizona community.
Clyde Reed is the pastor of Good News Community Church, a small Presbyterian congregation that uses innocuous temporary signs to advertise its weekly service. Since the church doesn’t own a building, it meets in various rented locations around Gilbert, a Phoenix suburb.
Reed ran afoul of ruler-toting compliance officers because the town specifically restricted the size, location, number, and duration of signs promoting “religious events.” Curiously, the Gilbert Sign Code is far more permissive of signs that are deemed ideological, political, or for homeowners’ associations.
With the help of the lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom, Reed sued the Town of Gilbert for discriminating against religious speech. It seems obvious the sign code violated the First Amendment but for some reason the town has been defending this provision in court since 2007.