9th Circuit in 2-1 decision rejects church’s challenge to town’s sign restrictions

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, (9th Cir., Feb. 8, 2013), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld an Arizona town’s sign ordinance that limits the size, number and time frame in which temporary directional signs can be displayed.  The ordinance was challenged by a church that placed 17 signs in the area around its place of worship announcing the time and location of its services. The majority concluded that the ordinance does not violate free expression guarantees since it is not a content-based regulation, and the restrictions are tailored to serve a significant governmental interest.  The majority also rejected free exercise, equal protection and overbreadth-vagueness challenges.

Judge Watford dissenting argued that the ordinance is content-based because it favors political and ideological signs over signs promoting events sponsored by non-profit organizations. (See prior related posting.)