Do we have the right to say things only when other people can’t hear us?
Such seems to be the principle informing an attempt by the government of St. Louis. The city’s trying to force citizen activist Jim Roos to take down a sign that allegedly violates the city’s zoning laws.
It’s a special sign: painted on the side of an apartment building owned by a “housing ministry” founded by Mr. Roos. The city claims the sign is too big. It’s special in another way, too. It says: “End Eminent Domain Abuse.” Mr. Roos has been fighting such abuse by the city. And now, along with the Institute for Justice, he’s fighting for his freedom of speech.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says there’s a “tricky” constitutional issue at stake — “fighting clutter versus protecting free speech,” supposedly. As if somebody’s ability to call your communication unsightly might justify tossing out the Constitution and our individual rights.
Meanwhile the city has no problem granting exemptions for signs it has no disagreement with. It allows a gas company with downtown offices to display a sign over 1,000 square feet.
So how do we resolve this “tricky” problem?
Simple: Uphold the right of individuals to exercise their freedom of speech and property rights. End zoning laws that violate these rights. And advise persons who don’t like the sign that they are free to look in other directions entirely. Presto, problem solved.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.