Signs, Signs Everywhere Signs

Here is a timely article about the nature of government to prevent citizens communicating with one another when they have a grievance against government.

The Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision legitimized this. It permits governments to cite “blight” — a notoriously elastic concept, sometimes denoting nothing more than chipped paint or cracked sidewalks — to justify seizing property for the “public use” of enriching those governments.

Roos responded by painting on the side of one of his buildings a large mural — a slash through a red circle containing the words “End Eminent Domain Abuse.” The government that had provoked him declared his sign “illegal” and demanded that he seek a permit for it. He did. Then the government denied the permit.

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm defending Roos, notes that signs may be the oldest form of mass communication — Gutenberg made advertising posters — and they remain an inexpensive means of communicating with fellow citizens. St. Louis says that it regulates signs for “aesthetic” reasons and to promote traffic safety, but it admits that it has no guidelines for the bureaucrats exercising aesthetic discretion and no empirical evidence connecting signs with traffic risks.

St. Louis is not the problem; government is. Many people go into it because they enjoy bossing people around. Surely this is why a court had to overturn a decision by the government of Glendale, Ohio, when it threatened a man with fines and jail because he put a “for sale” sign in his car parked in front of his house. The city said that people might be distracted by the sign and walk into traffic.

The alderman’s horror of uncontrolled speech is an example of what Elizabeth Price Foley, law professor at Florida International University, calls “an ineluctable byproduct of disregarding the morality of American law.” In her book “Liberty for All” (2006, Yale), she says that the growing exercise of legislative power “in the name of majoritarian whims” has eroded America’s “twin foundational presumptions” — limited government and residual individual sovereignty.

She thinks that we have become a nation of laws and not of liberty. We are, she notes, a nation with local laws prohibiting the wearing of hats in theaters or courtrooms, catching fish with one’s bare hands, carrying a slingshot, teaching others about polygamy, having a garage sale for more than two days a year, serving alcohol within a mile of a religious camp meeting. . . .

The problem is we are losing the freedoms that allowed this country to be a country where Christianity was allowed to take root and influence the nation in spectacular ways. Now as that Christianity recedes and the laws become obstacles for the expression of Christian faith the nation’s internal fibers are beginning to unravel, obvious to anyone who cares to see.

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About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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