ashington, DC— The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided a Freedom of Speech case using subjective legislative motive rather than the facts in the case, Liberty Counsel told the Supreme Court in an amicus brief today. Later this year, the Supreme Court will hear Reed. v. Town of Gilbert, a First Amendment challenge from Good News Community Church, which was denied the right to advertise its church like other businesses or political candidates.
In deciding the case, the Ninth Circuit based its opinion on the fact that the town of Gilbert, outside of Phoenix, did not have an “illicit motive” or a desire “to suppress certain ideas” when it placed tighter restrictions on church signs than on business or political signs.
“This case is far-reaching,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Our Bill of Rights is on the line. In the past, the courts have repeatedly denied legislative motive when validating law. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether the legislators meant to restrict freedom of speech; the fact is they restricted freedom of speech. That fact, not their pure or impure motives, is all that is in question,” Staver explained.
The Ninth Circuit’s decision “provided governmental agencies with a potentially powerful new tool to control free speech,” Liberty Counsel said in its amicus brief. “Affirming the Ninth Circuit’s use of legislative motive would signal to local governments that they can regulate unpopular speech so long as they can construct a sufficient veil of permissible motivation,” the brief said.
Liberty Counsel filed the brief on its own behalf and on behalf of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which was founded in 1995 by Reverend Samuel Rodriquez and has grown to more than 40,000 member congregations consisting of 12 to 16 million people throughout the United States. It is America’s largest Hispanic Christian evangelical organization. On May 1, 2014, NHCLC merged with Conela, a Latin America-based organization that serves more than 487,000 Latin churches globally, to become NHCLC/Conela, representing more than 500,000 churches throughout the world.