Saturday, March 21, 2015

Establishment Clause Challenge To Church Directional Sign Moves Ahead

In Tearpock-Martini v. Shickshinny Borough, (MD PA, March 20, 2015), a Pennsylvania federal district court refused to dismiss an Establishment Clause claim against a municipality whose borough council (of which plaintiff was a member) voted to allow a church to install a sign on rights of way bordering plaintiff's property over her objections. Borough street workers and one of the council members installed the sign which read "Bible Baptist Church Welcomes Your" and had a directional arrow with "1 block" written on it. In allowing plaintiff to move ahead, the court said:
The complaint makes sufficient allegations that the government placed the sign on the public right of way. The sign points in the direction of the church and contains a Bible and a cross. The circumstances surrounding the sign are very fact sensitive. For example, according to the plaintiff’s brief, the township does not permit other directional signs and denied the request of the local post office to place a sign. Depending on the facts that are revealed by discovery, a reasonable observer who is familiar with the history and context of the display may perceive a governmental endorsement of religion.
(See prior related posting.) Citizens Voice reports on the decision.