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N.Y. town silences religious speech on private property, issues citation for gospel message on trailer

Attorneys with ADF to assist Gouverneur man in criminal case
Daniel Burritt's trailer

GOUVERNEUR, N.Y. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund have agreed to assist a New York man cited by his town for displaying a gospel message on a trailer on his private business property.  Town of Gouverneur officials have not issued citations against other types of speech, such as commercial messages, displayed on private property along area roads.

“Christians should not be treated as second-class citizens,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.  “The U.S. Supreme Court gives special protection to speech on private property.  It has distinctly ruled that the government cannot give commercial speech on private property more rights than non-commercial speech on private property.  And it does not allow towns to ban religious speech just because some may consider it ‘offensive,’ as this town’s permit scheme allows.  Gouverneur officials were wrong to issue the citation.”

Daniel Burritt placed the religious message on the side of a trailer on his business property on U.S. Route 11.  Town officials issued Burritt a criminal citation, saying that a local ordinance requires him to have a permit to display his message; however, the town has not cited local businesses that are displaying commercial messages along local roadsides.

ADF-allied attorney Jim Trainor of Malta has appeared as counsel on behalf of Burritt in the criminal case against him, People of the State of New York v. Burritt.  An arraignment is scheduled in the Town Court of Gouverneur Thursday.


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.