Church lawsuit over electronic sign may change local law

OAKTON, Va. – A dispute over a church sign in Fairfax County is leading to possible changes in local law.

On July 3, the Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist displayed more than three message on its electronic sign.

A county policy says no more than three messages can be shown on electronic signs in a 24-hour period. After the church received a citation for the messages, it filed a First Amendment federal lawsuit.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors says it will now review the sign policy.

“It was not reasonable for the county to say that [the church was] in violation because they changed the copy more than twice within a 24-hour period of time,” says board chairwoman Sharon Bulova.

The law is outdated, Bulova says. Originally, it was intended to reduce messages on big, bright and multi-colored signs like the one at George Mason University on Braddock Road. The sign has produced a number of complaints, but the county can’t touch it since it’s on state property.

Bulova says the board hopes to “strike a good balance between too big, too busy and too bright and something that is relatively small and tasteful.”

WTOP’s Hank Silverberg contributed to this report. Follow Hank and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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