On January 12, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments from Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.
Clyde Reed is pastor of Good News Community Church in Gilbert, Arizona, a small congregation that rents temporary space in various locations for its weekly services. The church uses small, temporary signs to invite and direct the community to its services.
While the town’s sign code imposes some restrictions on political, ideological, and homeowners’ association signs, its regulations are far stricter on the size, location, number, and duration of the church’s signs. Violating those restrictions could mean serious fines or even jail for Pastor Reed.
Gilbert’s sign code does at least two things the First Amendment forbids: 1) it regulates signs differently based on what they say; and 2) it grants favorable treatment to signs it deems “more valuable” than other signs. In this case, the town deemed Pastor Reed’s church signs valueless and heavily restricted them. The Ninth Circuit excused Gilbert’s religious speech discrimination because the town claimed it did not mean to discriminate. But requiring proof of discriminatory intent in free speech cases would make it much easier for the government to get away with violating free speech rights. ADF is asking the High Court to reverse the lower court’s decision