Government Law

ACLU Backs Florida Bait Shop Ticketed for Displaying US Constitution


Updated: At first, it was a painting of game fish on an exterior wall of a Florida bait and tackle shop that drew adverse attention from sign code enforcement officials of the city of Clearwater, who said it violates a ban on a business displaying a depiction of the product it sells.

But, when by the city ordered the Complete Angler to paint over it, the shop instead covered it with a banner providing the text of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—and was cited over the banner, too, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

Already facing $700 in fines, owner Herb Quintero says he’s been told the ante will soon be upped to $500 a day.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union has joined the fray, suing the city in federal court over the alleged First Amendment violations, the newspaper writes.

“Only in Florida could a business owner be targeted and fined for displaying artwork; and then in protest of the fine, display the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—and then be ticketed for that,” Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, tells the Times.

The city says it is simply enforcing strict rules in a uniform manner regardless of the content of the sign.

At a March 4 federal court hearing, however, a city official said that a U.S. flag would have been an acceptable cover-up for the offending fish painting, while the First Amendment was not. A new ABAJournal.com post provides more details about the hearing.

Additional coverage:

Keep the Fish: “The Complete Angler Keep the Fish Fund”

St. Petersburg Times: “Clearwater tackle shop covers forbidden fish mural with First Amendment”

Last updated at 8 p.m. on March 4 to include link to ABAJournal.com post about subsequent federal court hearing.

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