Free Speech Victory

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Last year I wrote a short piece for Reason on a Missouri man’s mural protest against eminent domain abuse (seen here), and the state’s efforts to silence him by requiring him to get a sign permit, then rejecting his application. Some good news:

Roos and two entities that he controls sued the city, arguing that the sign was a political statement protected by the Constitution. Roos is also a spokesperson for the Missouri Eminent Domain Abuse Coalition (MEDAC).

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey dismissed the case, saying the ordinance was content-neutral. The mural was a “classic example” of a sign, he said, as it was meant to attract attention to Roos’ cause and advertised two Web site addresses.

But a three judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed Wednesday, saying that the zoning code used the content of a sign to determine if it was, in fact, a “sign” under the code.

A sign the same size as Roos’ “would not be subject to regulation if it were a “[n]ational, state, religious, fraternal, professional and civic symbol'” or showed the “time and subject matter of religious services,” the ruling says.

The code was also not supported by a compelling government interest, the judges ruled.

Congratulations to the Institute for Justice, who represented Roos in his appeal. Now we just need to get Roos to fix the sign so it doesn’t suggest that he’s advocating eminent domain abuse.

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11 Responses to “Free Speech Victory”

  1. #1 |  James J.B. | 

    RB –

    Outside of that monkey picture post a few days ago – don’t usually find myself laughing when I read this site.
    Then this article.

    I saw the sign – thought somebody favors eminent doman abuse – chuckled and read the whole article. The saw your quote –
    “advocating eminent domain abuse” laughed again. Great victory.

  2. #2 |  yonemoto | 

    Too much good news on this site this month, Radley. Where am I to go for my daily dose of nut-punch?

  3. #3 |  davidst | 

    Haha, it took me a few seconds to realize what you meant in the last paragraph there.

  4. #4 |  JS | 

    A victory for free speech in America? I”m afraid it’s just an isolated incident.

  5. #5 |  Difster | 

    He just needs to remove “END” and it will be fine. That’s funny though, I guess he went overboard in making his point.

  6. #6 |  abhisaha | 

    Haha, that was a good last paragraph.

    And good for Roos and IJ! When I think of effective organizations making a difference for liberty through their litigation, IJ, ACLU and EFF are the ones that come to mind. (I donate to all three. Though its happened before that two of these are on opposite sides of a case…).

  7. #7 |  JeffW | 

    Now we just need to get Roos to fix the sign so it doesn’t suggest that he’s advocating eminent domain abuse.

    Prediction for the new sign:

  8. #8 |  Glen | 

    I learned today that in Europe, you don’t need the cross-bar for the circle to mean a prohibition. For instance, a red circle around the word “graffiti” means “no graffiti.” So I suppose we could say the sign has the intended meaning by way of a triple negative (‘end’, red circle, red cross-bar).

    But the simplest answer, as Difster says, is just to paint over “END” in white.

  9. #9 |  Itchy Nipples | 

    Can’t they just pass a law to make two negatives a positive?

  10. #10 |  TC | 

    Why is it that citizens seemingly at every turn of the road that brings attention to a farked up govt and it’s institutions has to resort to the hiring of attorneys and such costing millions of dollars just to git some politico to understand the got daaumed laws?

  11. #11 |  BoogaFrito | 

    He just needs to paint a shadow behind the “End” so it looks like it’s floating in front of the rest of the sign.