Government officials can’t restrict freedom of speech just because that speech is critical of the government.
But that’s what officials in Olyphant, Pennsylvania are doing to Dave Bliler and his family. Using an overly restrictive ordinance regulating what signs residents can put up on their own property, the Olyphant government is able to censor, restrict, and shut down speech it doesn’t like.
As a Marine Corps veteran, Dave believes it is important to express criticism of the government warranted. It’s a foundational American value that thousands have died to protect.
After the Blilers experienced failures by government officials over the past few years, they felt compelled to speak out and criticize their government. The family erected a four-foot by eight-foot sign on the front of their house expressing that criticism.
Big Government couldn’t let that stand.
Within days, the Blilers received a notice from Olyphant Borough officials informing the family that they were in violation of the Borough’s restrictive sign ordinance. The officials threatened to haul the Blilers before a judge and impose of $500 fine per day if they were found in violation of the ordinance.
Despite being surrounded by other houses in the neighborhood with what appear to be signs that did not receive a permit, the government only targeted the Blilers’ speech.
According to the ordinance, residents can only have one sign on their property. This alone is an overbearing restriction on speech, but the ordinance goes further, implementing several arduous requirements on that one sign:
- The sign can’t be larger than six square feet.
- The sign must be submitted to the Borough for approval.
- Residents must pay a minimum of $40 fee to erect the sign.
- Residents must wait an unspecified and unlimited time for the government to approve the sign permit.
On top of all of this, the city itself is not subject to the ordinance—the Borough can put up as many signs as it wants. While the residents of Olyphant must go through a demanding approval process to erect just one small sign on their own property, the government has complete freedom to put up as many signs as it likes on whatever issues it chooses.
This violates the First Amendment.
No American should have to ask the government permission to put up a sign on their own property to express their beliefs. That’s why Dave and his family are taking the Borough to court. Government officials must be held to account: they cannot restrict speech just because its critical of the government.