After facing lawsuit, town of Gilbert decides to cease discriminatory practice against local churches
PHOENIX — The town of Gilbert has agreed to halt enforcement of a discriminatory signage ordinance in the wake of a federal lawsuit filed by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund who represent a local church and its pastor. In addition, town of Gilbert officials have decided to amend the sign code so that it doesn’t unfairly target churches with its restrictions.
“Government officials are not permitted by the Constitution to single out churches for censorship,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “If the town of Gilbert allows others to post signs well in advance to express a viewpoint or invite members of the community to attend some type of meeting or event, then the town must allow churches to do the same.”
Gilbert officials recently decided to change the code they enacted that discriminates against certain signage based on the content of the signs. According to the code, religious assembly signs are required to be smaller in size, fewer in number, and displayed for much less time than similar non-religious signs. Also, the ordinance allows ideological and political signs to be posted without a permit, whereas a permit is required to post religious assembly signs.
Gilbert’s Code Compliance Department cited one local church, Good News Presbyterian Church, for placing signs near the church building early in the day Saturday and removing the signs following the services on Sunday. The signage ordinance dictates that religious assembly signs must adhere to a time limitation of two hours before and one hour after the service.
After ADF attorneys filed a motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of Good News Presbyterian and its pastor, Clyde Reed, the town voluntarily agreed to the injunction, which will permit the church to place signs that display the time and location of their church services and will prohibit the town from enforcing its discriminatory code against the church’s signs until a final decision in the case.
“We are happy for Good News Presbyterian and other local churches that this unfair signage ordinance will be changed,” said Tedesco. “According to constitutional law, ordinances that place restrictions on signage cannot place greater restrictions on religious groups than they place on non-religious groups.”
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.