Sunday, January 29, 2017

Church Loses Its Challenge To Town's Sign Ordinance

In Signs for Jesus v. Town of  Pembroke, NH, (D NH, Jan. 27, 2017), a New Hampshire federal district court upheld a New Hampshire town's application of its Sign Ordinance to prohibit a church (that was outside the commercial district) from installing an electronic changing sign. The court, summarizing its conclusions, said:
First, the Town’s decision to deny the Church’s request for an electronic sign had nothing to do with either religion or the content of the Church’s speech. Second, the decision served the Town’s important governmental interests in aesthetics and traffic safety in a manner that was narrowly tailored to serve those interests. Third, the decision does not unreasonably burden the Church’s right to practice its religious beliefs, to practice free speech, or to use its property. Finally, the Town has not treated the Church differently from any other similarly situated landowner. In light of these conclusions, the Church’s contention that it should be free from the effect of the Town’s electronic sign ordinance amounts to a demand, not for a level playing field, but instead for a right to be treated differently from all other private landowners. Neither the state and federal constitutions nor RLUIPA requires this result.