April 15, 2009
Clearwater muddies constitutional waters
Clearwater, Florida, city officials cited the owners of a bait and tackle shop for displaying a painted mural on the side of the building housing their business because the mural included some fish. City officials said it violated a city sign ordinance, levied a fine, and ordered it removed.
The owners paid the fine, but refused to strip the mural from the building. Instead, they covered it with a banner displaying the text of the First Amendment, followed by this statement:
“THE SUPREME COURT REQUIRES THE GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE SUBSTANTIAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THE INTERFERENCE WITH THE RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH WHERE IT ATTEMPTS TO REGULATE THE CONTENT OF THE SPEECH.”
Nope. City officials want that removed as well.
The ACLU came to the rescue, and obtained a preliminary ruling barring the city from penalizing the owners while the case proceeds to a hearing on the merits.
The city previously lost a similar case when it tried to ban an Egyptian restaurant form displaying Egyptian-themed designs on its restaurant building.
Cast your line over to www.keepthefish.com for all of the details and links to the many sites that have covered or commented on this incident.
Photo Credit: ACLU of Florida, and Douglas Clifford