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Supreme Court of the United States

Generational Wins: A Unanimous Supreme Court Decision Protects Free Speech

March 10, 2021

A generational win is a significant victory that changes the law and culture of the nation for a generation. Deliberate action is taken following that victory in order to ensure that it endures for generations to come.

This is the second in a series of blog posts that will outline how some key courtroom victories helped protect freedom in five critical areas. The first post on Religious Freedom can be found here.

Download a PDF version of this post here.

Free Speech

WHO: Pastor Clyde Reed of Good News Community Church

WHAT: Reed v. Town of Gilbert

Citing “aesthetic” and “safety” concerns, the Town of Gilbert targeted temporary signs placed by Pastor Reed that led to his church services. Reed was threatened with fines and jail time for not removing the signs within one hour of the service’s end, even though other signs could remain for an unlimited amount of time according to Gilbert’s discriminatory code.

WHEN: The initial complaint was filed in 2007. The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case in 2015.

WHERE: Gilbert, Arizona

WHY: Pastor Reed relied on small signs pointing people to his services, since his small congregation often had to meet at different locations.

But according to the Town of Gilbert, the church signs could only be six square feet, displayed for no more than 14 hours, and limited to four per property. By comparison, a political sign could be up to 32 square feet and displayed for months at a time. An ideological sign could be displayed indefinitely, and there was no limit to how many could be posted.

THE OUTCOME: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Pastor Reed by an overwhelming 9-0 vote.

The decision made it abundantly clear that Gilbert violated the Free Speech Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against a particular type of speech.

HOW IT AFFECTS YOU NOW: The U.S. Supreme Court decisively affirmed that the government cannot play favorites when it comes to free speech.

Reed has also been cited by the Supreme Court—and numerous lower courts—in several other free speech cases. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Reed decision helped lead to a victory over a California law that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to communicate state-compelled messages directing women toward state-funded abortions.

HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR FUTURE: Alliance Defending Freedom’s victory at the Supreme Court in Reed sets an invaluable precedent. Cases like this can bear fruit in many ways and continue to influence culture long after the decision is made. But the work is far from over.

We know the threats to religious liberty, free speech, the sanctity of human life, and parental rights will not stop. And when those fundamental rights are violated, ADF stands ready to defend them in courtrooms at every level, all across the nation. That’s exactly what we have been doing for more than 25 years. And with God’s blessing we will continue to do so. Will you join us?

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Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

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