Arizona Church Wins in Supreme Court

Good News Community Church, a small congregation in Gilbert, AZ, appealed a First Amendment case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.  At issue were restrictions enforced by the Town of Gilbert on the church’s temporary signs directing people to its services.  The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the town’s sign code, which treated the church signs differently than others, including ideological and political signs. 

Justice Clarence Thomas authored the opinion of the Court.  He stated, “The Code imposes more stringent restrictions on these signs than it does on signs conveying other messages. We hold that these provisions are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny.”  Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Samuel Alito, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined Justice Thomas in his opinion.  Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, issued an opinion concurring in judgement against the code but critiquing the reasoning of the Court’s majority.

David Cortman, Senior Counsel for NRB Member Alliance Defending Freedom, argued the church’s case before the Supreme Court in January.  Reacting to this week’s ruling, Mr. Cortman stated, “The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling is a victory for everyone’s freedom of speech.”  Dismissing an argument about the town’s motives that had gained traction in lower courts in this case, Mr. Cortman added, “Speech discrimination is wrong regardless of whether the government intended to violate the First Amendment or not…. It’s still government playing favorites, and that’s unconstitutional.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 19, 2015


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