'Jesus is Lord'

May 26, 2003 01:47 PM EDT

A borough government in Pennsylvania says freedom of speech does not extend to a man's large "Jesus is Lord" sign, threatening the man with jail time if he doesn't remove it, reports the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

Bob Foor's sign hangs on the back of an old repair shop he owns in the heart of a historic district in Bedford, Pa. According to the paper, the red, flashing neon letters are three and a half feet high and stretch nearly 100 feet across the building.

"It's something I believe. I'm very much a believer, and it's something that I think needs to be there," Foor told the Tribune-Democrat.

Foor erected the sign after the borough council denied him a permit. The local government says Foor's sign violates three separate ordinances.

The American Civil Liberties Union is siding with the borough.

"Freedom of speech has time, place and manner restrictions," Larry Frankel, executive director of Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU, told the paper. "Unless he can demonstrate that he is being denied permission for the sign based on the content of the sign, it is not discrimination."

According to the report, part of the goal of city regulations for the historical district is to keep buildings looking as much like they did 200 years ago as possible.

Foor, owner of Bob Foor Cars, says he has already spent over $10,000 on the sign, but is willing to spend more in legal fees to fight the borough.

"I have a feeling it's going to cost me a lot more," Foor said.

If Foor does not take the sign down by today, per a demand from the borough, he will be subject to a $1,000-per-day fine and a possible 30-day jail stay.

"I feel they're violating my freedom of speech and my freedom to express my religion. I feel they're violating my constitutional rights," he told the Tribune-Democrat.

Foor is clearly proud of his new sign: "You can even see it from the Bedford Bypass. In fact I was told you can see it from an airplane flying over the borough."

By Albert H. Lee
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