Tiny Gilbert Church Wins Supreme Court Victory in Battle of David vs. Goliath

Ending a 10-year legal battle with the Town of Gilbert, Good News Community Church today won a 9-0 victory at the U.S. Supreme Court for free speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court gave churches everywhere a free speech victory today when it ruled that religious signs must be given the same treatment as other messages posted on street corners.

The court unanimously ruled the town of Gilbert, Arizona had discriminated against churches by passing an ordinance barring corner signs advertising services, but allowing other types of signs to be displayed.

The decision overturns a previous ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — the most overturned court in America.

“In today’s secular climate, government increasingly views the free speech rights of churches as less valuable than other types of speech,” said Bruce Hausknecht with Focus on the Family. “That attitude – whether intentional or not – carries over into unconstitutional restrictions on speech such as the Town of Gilbert’s sign code in this case. It is gratifying to see the Supreme Court issue a unanimous decision in favor of the church, especially when two lower federal courts got it horribly wrong.”

Gilbert’s lawyer made that very point in oral arguments at the Supreme Court. In a shocking disregard for the First Amendment, he said church speech isn’t as important as the speech of others. The Town of Gilbert got smacked down for that callous disregard of free speech.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (headquartered in Scottsdale) represented Good News Community Church and its 82-year-old pastor, Clyde Reed, in the lawsuit.

“The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling is a victory for everyone’s freedom of speech,” said ADF attorney David Cortman, who argued the case for the Supreme Court earlier this year. “Speech discrimination is wrong regardless of whether the government intended to violate the First Amendment or not, and it doesn’t matter if the government thinks its discrimination was well-intended. It’s still government playing favorites, and that’s unconstitutional.

“The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling is a victory for everyone’s freedom of speech,” Cortman said. “Speech discrimination is wrong regardless of whether the government intended to violate the First Amendment or not, and it doesn’t matter if the government thinks its discrimination was well-intended.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said that was an impermissible content-based regulation.

“The First Amendment … prohibits enactment of laws ‘abridging the freedom of speech,’’’ Thomas wrote. “Under that clause, a government, including a municipal government vested with state authority has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”

In a rare display for fairness, the left-stream media outlet Arizona Central/Arizona Republic turned in the best line of the day on the victory for free speech:

The U.S. Supreme Court preached a bit of gospel — from the Greek word meaning “good news” — for a small Gilbert Presbyterian church on Thursday.

The Blaze reported …

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major victory to a small Arizona church on Thursday, ruling that local officials cannot restrict messages on signage based on “how worthy the government thinks [they are],” according to the conservative legal firm that represented the house of worship.

CitizenLink contributed to the report

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