Florida city pushes limits of First Amendment restrictions

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When first we saw this story demanding removal of “God Bless America” yard signs, we assumed it was a neighborhood Home Owners Association enforcing a written agreement with home owners, but we were wrong.

Of course, the owner of sub-division property may condition a sale upon accepting neighborhood rules applicable to all residents (with few constitutional restrictions) and U.S. Supreme Court precedents establish that governments may impose “time, place and manner” restrictions under the First Amendment. But such restrictions must be rationally based upon a legitimate governmental interest.

First amendmentThe subject restriction in Bartow, Florida may pass constitutional muster based upon litter prevention, but clearly residents have the right to free speech whether that speech coincides with recognized state and local holidays. A court challenge would be required to determine if the city’s current ordinance is constitutional. But of course, should enough residents deem the ordinance to be abhorrent, they can lobby city officials to change the law and/or run their own candidates to challenge those incumbents wedded to the current law.

[Mike DeVine, a trial lawyer for two decades throughout the South, is presently a regular contributor at Joe For America]

Mike DeVine‘s Right.com

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson

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