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Church Sign on Hunter Mill Road Ignites Suit

Church of the Good Shepherd files in response to citation for violation Fairfax County policy

Church of the Good Shepherd has filed a federal lawsuit claiming a Fairfax County zoning ordinance violates First Amendment rights, WTOP reports.

The Vienna-based church received a citation in July for showing more than two different messages within 24 hours on the electronic sign along Hunter Mill Road.

On July 3, the church displayed three messages, according to the county's citation: "WELCOME, come on in and beat the heat ..., Also visit us at goodshepherdva.com, Practicing the Presence Thurs., July 5 1 p.m."

The invitation to "beat the heat" came when thousands had no power in the aftermath of the June 29 derecho, the church wrote in the lawsuit filed Aug. 20 with the U.S. Eastern District Court of Virginia. 

It is unclear why a Fairfax County surveilled the church that day, WTOP reports.

The church responded with a federal lawsuit, claiming the zoning ordinance violated the church's free speech and freedom of religion rights.

The complaint asserts the church and its congregants "have suffered and continue to suffer irreparable harm from the Defendant's actions in regulating and restricting Plaintiff's protected speech and in imposing prior restraint on Plaintiff's free speech rights."

Read the complaint's full text in the media box to the right of this article.

John August 30, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Amazing that a law exists in Fairfax county that restricts how many different messages you can show in a 24 hour period on a electronic sign. Wonder what other crazy laws are out there. I know you can't build a deck even 1 foot off the ground on your own property without a permit. Fairfax County is starting to look like the old Soviet Union. We need less government and less regulation.
Anoneemous August 30, 2012 at 03:23 PM
The church was absolutely right to slap a federal suit on the county for such a silly, over zealous application of county regulation. The officer who wrote up the violation must have been an idiot too, along with the author of the ordinance.
Kim August 30, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Hey, Jack, don't make it a liberal/conservative issue. It's a First Amendment issue and this liberal is 100% behind the church.
Java Master August 31, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Listen to the nonsense being spouted by a handful of nearby residents opposed to the sign--- they compare it to Las Vegas or a gawdy used car lot sign And this on local televison, no less... What complete balderdash! How melodramatic! How silly. This is clearly a first amendment issue, and possibly a federal statuatory violation as well--the county has overstepped its bounds with overzealous enforcement of a questionable regulation. Do you know how many local lawyers would love to represent the church just to for an opportunity to tee off against the county It may not be a open and shut case ( that's what the courts are for, after all) but I can see "Legal Victory for Church" as a future headline here on the Patch and elsewhere... ...You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Are you paying attention Fairfax County?
Kim August 31, 2012 at 01:29 PM
According to today's Post, County wisely dropped charges. I do wonder about the zoning enforcement officer who cited the church in the first place. I'm guessing a neighbor complained. Or did he sit by the road for 24 hours to see how many messages were scrolled? So glad my taxes are paying for that.

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