Fairfax County will be re-examining its policy on electronic signs following a First Amendment lawsuit from a Vienna church.
Church of the Good Shepherd, a United Methodist Church on Hunter Mill Road, filed a civil complaint against the county in federal court last month. The church was cited in July for displaying three different messages on its new light-emitting diode sign in a 24-hour period, one more than the two messages allowed under county policy.
The complaint says the county policy violates the First Amendment because it limits the church’s speech without “any compelling government interest,” as well as being discriminatory because it has exemptions for certain types of messages.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large) said she plans to bring the issue to the board on Tuesday so the county’s sign ordinance can be updated to account for modern technology.
“The ordinance is outdated,” she said, noting it was last updated about 20 years ago.
The board also will receive an update on the status of the legal action during their closed session on Tuesday. Bulova said her understanding is the county lifted its notice of violation and the church plans to withdraw the suit.
According to federal court records, the case has not been withdrawn yet.
Although she supports modernizing the ordinance, Bulova also said it is important for the county to maintain some restrictions on signs. George Mason University’s electronic sign, which sits on state property and is not subject to county regulations, still is the subject of frequent community complaints.
“That serves as an example of why regulation can be helpful,” Bulova said. “It’s important to strike the right balance.”
The biggest issue is distraction for drivers, she said.