ACLJ Files Suit Defending Display of Religious Banner

( [email protected] ) Oct 26, 2004 04:54 AM EDT

A Los Angeles-based Messianic Jewish congregation is suing the city for denying a permit to display a banner announcing its upcoming event.

Congregation of Jesus the Lord has been permitted by the city to hang the banners, reading “Jews who believe in Jesus High Holy Days Services,” on city streets for the last three years.

However, without any change to city policy, city officials refused to grant permission to the organization to display the banners, saying the banner’s phrase “Jews who believe in Jesus” was a prohibited message.

The Washington D.C-based American Center for Law and Justice is representing the organization’s pastor Michael Brown in the suit against the City of Los Angeles, Mayor James Hahn, the City Council, and the City’s Department of Public Works. ACLJ lawyers argue the right display banners that include religious messages are protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

“The city acted in a discriminatory manner by censoring a banner that contains clearly constitutionally protected speech,” said Stuart J. Roth, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ.

“The city permits a wide variety of religious and secular banners to be displayed publicly on streets. The decision to censor this banner was made strictly on the basis of the content of the banner – and that action is not only wrong, but unconstitutional. We are hopeful the court will reject the discriminatory behavior of the city and permit our client to exercise his First Amendment rights.”

According to ACLJ, the suit requests that the actions of the city be declared unconstitutional and that the court issue an injunction preventing the city from continuing its discriminatory actions aimed at the congregation.

“Once the city permits the display of banners, it cannot step in and censor a religious banner simply because it might not like the content of that banner,” said Roth.