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It's settled: Tractor trailer displaying Christian message remains along NY highway

NYDOT agrees with ADF attorneys to let gospel trailer stay on owner's property
Daniel Burritt's trailer

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys representing a Christian man reached a favorable settlement with the New York Department of Transportation, which agreed to allow Daniel Burritt's trailer donning a gospel message to remain on his private business property along a public highway.  The tractor trailer had previously been cited as a "public nuisance," and NYDOT warned Burritt that it would be forcibly removed if the Christian message remained visible from the highway. 

Daniel Burritt's trailer, parked on private property along NY highway.

"No Christian should be singled out and penalized for sharing his beliefs," said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.  "After reaching this settlement with NYDOT, we are pleased Mr. Burritt can now freely enjoy his First Amendment right to display a religious message on his own property."

In August 2007, Burritt placed a tractor trailer--where he stores supplies for his company, Acts II Construction, Inc.--on his private business property along U.S. Route 11.  The trailer displays a gospel message to each direction of highway traffic and is one of many ways in which Burritt uses his property to evangelize.

He was cited that year by Gouverneur town officials over the message, but the charges were dropped after interaction with ADF attorneys.  Burritt then received a letter in May 2008 from NYDOT stating his trailer was in violation of state law and would be declared a "public nuisance."  NYDOT asserted that the trailer required a permit and must be removed or face forcible removal and legal action, even though it does not require permits for similarly displayed commercial messages.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Burritt v. New York State Department of Transportation, in June 2008 with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleging the state violated the Constitution through its discriminatory treatment of Burritt's speech.  After filing, an agreement was reached with NYDOT to let the trailer remain until a ruling could be rendered.  The court issued a preliminary injunction last December preventing NYDOT from removing the trailer sign while the rest of the case was being litigated, and denied the state's motion to dismiss the case.

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.

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Matt Bowman
Matt Bowman
Senior Counsel, Director of Regulatory Practice
Matt Bowman serves as senior counsel and director of regulatory practice at Alliance Defending Freedom, where he focuses on the impact of administrative law on religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and family.