ALBANY , N.Y. — A gospel message displayed on private business property in Gouverneur will remain until a decision is reached in a lawsuit filed by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys. New York Department of Transportation officials agreed to delay their plan to force Daniel Burritt to remove the tractor trailer bearing the message until 30 days after a decision is reached in the case.
“Christians shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The right to display a personal message on private property, including a religious message, is protected under the First Amendment. In this case, NYDOT’s rules unconstitutionally require permits for such messages while not requiring permits for commercial messages,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.
In 2007, ADF attorneys came to the defense of Burritt after he was cited by Gouverneur town officials for placing the trailer on his private business property, which is located on U.S. Route 11.
ADF attorneys filed suit against NYDOT after it recently issued a warning to Burritt under rules requiring permits for non-commercial messages but not for similar commercial ones. In a letter dated May 16, 2008, a NYDOT official demanded that Burritt either remove the trailer by June 15 or face forcible removal of the vehicle and legal action. The letter stated that Burritt was in violation of state highway laws and required that he either correct the violations noted or face having his trailer classified as a “public nuisance” subject to removal.
On Wednesday, NYDOT agreed to a stipulation that will allow the trailer bearing the message to remain at its current location until a judge issues a ruling in the case. The stipulation eliminates the need for a temporary restraining order that ADF attorneys had requested but keeps in place a motion for preliminary injunction for the court’s consideration.
A hearing on Burritt’s preliminary injunction motion is scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT, Sept. 26, in Binghamton before U.S. District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy.
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.