Under one municipal code, signs advocating this or that political opinion or philosophy are limited to 20 square feet; campaign signs may grow to 32 square feet in various areas of town; signs directing would-be goers to this or that event, however, could not spread to over 6 square feet. And so small town life droned on undisturbed, under customary signs and billboards.
Enters a church (a sympathetic party in front of a Supreme Court friendly to religion), and a poor one to boot. Unable to afford a permanent location, it hopped from borrowed building to borrowed building, and needed those directional signs to guide its members to service. It brought a free-speech challenge over the size limit.
The U.S. Supreme Court accepted that the ordinance was based on the content of the speech – political ideas were worth so many square feet, campaigning was worth so many more, and directions so many less. In other words, what topic was discussed was the driving force behind how friendly the municipal government was to it. And that, the U.S. Supreme Court held, could not stand.
Signs and billboards are often a hot-potato issue in an urban environment. Jacksonville is not immune. Stormy debates about digital billboards are only the latest example. Often those debates take place in city halls or before administrative tribunals. Occasionally, the mighty First Amendment comes out and plays. The good attorney will know where to fight what battle.