TxDOT Told Woman Her Ten Commandments Sign Was an Ad, Is Now Backtracking

Categories: Legislature

tencmmands.JPG
George Bannister
The Ten Commandments are OK in their original tablet format, but not as giant signs along the highway.
If you think Texas' highways are too beautiful to sully with cheap, unpermitted signs, you're not alone. Under the Highway Beautification Transportation Code, the Texas Department of Transportation has some very strict, un-Texas-like regulations dictating the types of signs people can display. First, for what is allowed: businesses along highways can post signs on their own premises, advertising for themselves.

Seems fair, until you learn what isn't allowed, at least not without a very expensive permitting process: signs displayed on private property that advertise for something other than yourself. That includes the words of the Lord.

Jeanette Golden found out the hard way, after TxDOT informed her in May that the Ten Commandments she posted within her East Texas property off of State Highway 21 was in fact an "outdoor advertisement" and required a permit.

The company that made the sign, Gods 10, had placed its website address on the 6-by--10-foot tablets, and Golden first tried just blacking that part of the sign over. But for TxDOT, that still wasn't good enough.

The sign was still "outdoor advertising," TxDOT said afterward, and required a permit. That required a $125 outdoor advertising fee, an annual $75 renewal fee, a $100 application fee and a $2,500 surety bond. The state probably wouldn't have approved the application anyway, according to emails obtained by the Liberty Institute, the religious freedom legal nonprofit that agreed to represent Golden for free.

"I know of nothing that would change our position that it is on a road that cannot have signage," one of the TxDOT attorneys informed the other employees in an April email.

"I wonder how they'd feel about quotes from the Quaran?," wondered another TxDOT employee, also through email. The Liberty Institute argued that the emails showed TxDOT was violating Golden's First Amendment rights by not allowing any signs on the road. Then, the institute went ahead and posted the emails online.

Now, TxDOT is suddenly no longer so keen on trying to regulate that Ten Commandments replica. In fact, TxDOT is taking the advice of Golden's attorney and revising its sign rules. "Ms. Golden's sign raised a valid concern in our rules regarding the permitting of private citizens' signs," TxDOT spokesperson Becky Ozuna tells Unfair Park in an email. "For this reason, TxDOT proposed the creation of a new classification of signs to be exempt from permits."

Still, getting a sign on your own land sounds difficult under the possible rule change.:

To be exempt, these signs must be no more than 96 sq. ft. in size; sit on private property of the sign owner; and not be tied to any monetary benefit to anyone (in other words, cannot promote a business).

Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry is nonetheless encouraged by the official proposal, saying that this would no longer violate anyone's constitutional rights. "We're actually pretty optimistic and pleased with TxDOT's response, assuming it goes through," he says. "The government should not be able to censure or restrict private speech that occurs on private property."



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33 comments
Mainer_manor
Mainer_manor

Conclusion:

Bureaucracies operate on a whim and atheists are so very sensitive.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

What about all those tacky political vote-for-me signs during election season, don't they also count as "outdoor advertising"?

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I don't often agree with the Liberty Institute. But, in this case I do. It's her property and the sign does not hurt anyone. But, I also think the sign is silly. Just as silly as any other piece of lawn art I've ever seen (from pink flamingos to crosses, to a miniature Stonehenge I saw in one person's yard).

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

"and not be tied to any monetary benefit to anyone"


The Christian Church IS a Business ... a MULTI-BILLION $$ Business.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Lady Bird, Lady Bird, where are you now that we need you? 

wcvemail
wcvemail

First! but no, I'm not going to quote the 1st Commandment.

MikeO
MikeO

A minature Stonehenge sounds inspired to me.

You've got me thinking now.

donkey_kong.2010
donkey_kong.2010

@TheCredibleHulk

Why do asians and Middle Easterns always have Cuss-word names??


Fuk u, Fuk mi, BangKock, Islama BAD, I'm-a-kind-a-kinky (tahitian island)


or something stupid like Waheed Waheedullah (we heed, we heed Allah) sounds like. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

How much do you figger Ms. Golden is making off this sign?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Pushing up native wild flowers?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  "How much do you figger Ms. Golden is making off this sign?"


Enough for a down payment on a Stairway to Heaven?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

She's just trolling the h8ters.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk

I couldn't find prices on their website, but I'm pretty sure that any profits are donated to a charity, like for instance the Gods10 Foundation

halldecker
halldecker

@TheRuddSki  Good answer! Now.  

In the improbable event putting all the relatives on the payroll doesn't eat up any excess revenues ...

Who do you think runs and gets paid to provide their unique and highly valuable services to both the company, and,  if it exists,  that Gods10 Foundation?


Owing your own church,  assuming you're any good at it,  is a way to make big-bucks,  without much work.  And,  as you own it,  you can always pass it down the line to your son,  who was once an outlaw,  but,  thanks to the overwhelming Power has seen the light (and the loot that flows)  and figures he can work in stories about how evil he once was,  ought to increase the take at least five-fold over what daddy took in.  Right,  Joel?





TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@TheRuddSki

Pretty entertaining website. I imagine they accept 'donations' for signage in lieu of traditional payment. 

My favorite sign: What Happens in Vegas, GOD KNOWS!

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@halldecker

Uh, yeah

They could always donate the proceeds to the Clinton Foundation.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

If they do charge for the signs, the prices are a well-kept secret. Maybe you have to buy one to see what it costs. That's reasonable.

But as I said, it's likely that any profits Gods 10 makes is likely donated to Gods 10 charity arm - again, perfectly reasonable.

Hot.Sauce
Hot.Sauce

@Ruddy

Then you'd be crying about monetary benefit.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@TheRuddSki ... so they *do* receive a monetary benefit ... contrary to the new proposed law.


Noted.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Hotty

You're making a lackluster, pointless argument, and the girls are going to blame me for it, hon.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

Their profit is speculation on your part.

A conspiracy theory.

Hot.Sauce
Hot.Sauce

@Ruddy your reading comprehension is weak. It says "monetary benefit" not profit.

Even charities receive monetary benefit from the income they generate.

Donkey wins again.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Hot.Sauce

Ok, how much does the sign cost, how much monetary benefit is accrued?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@TheRuddSki ... you're the fool blindly speculating that Gods 10 donates the $$ received to their "charity arm" -- i.e. MONETARY BENEFIT.


You FAIL AGAIN.



TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

Look up definitions of "if", and "speculation".

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

Do you know if they are receiving monetary benefit?

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