11th Circuit Declares Halloween Signs Violate First Amendment

Source: ACSOL

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision today that declares Halloween signs posted in a registrant’s front yard violate the First Amendment.  Specifically, the Court ruled that the signs violated the registrant’s right to be free from being forced to host a government message on his private property.  At issue were signs posted by the sheriff in Butts County, Georgia.

In its decision, the Court stated “that the Sheriff’s interest in protecting children from sexual abuse is compelling.  However, the yard signs are not narrowly tailored to achieve that goal.”  The Court also stated “that yard signs alerting people to the residences of registered sex offenders on Halloween would prevent the sexual abuse of children” was not supported by evidence.  Further, the Court dismissed the sheriff’s argument that “all convicted sex offenders pose enough of a recidivism risk to justify his signs.”

“ACSOL commends the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on the wise decision it issued today,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci.  “ACSOL hopes that other circuit courts of appeal will follow this precedent.”

Today’s decision applies directly only to one of the three plaintiffs in the case because the court distinguished between the registrant who is a homeowner and the two registrants who are living in their parents’ homes.  The Court noted, however, that the parents of the two registrants could challenge the Halloween signs and it is expected that they would receive a similar decision from the courts.

Attorney Mark Yurachek of Atlanta, Georgia, represented the three plaintiffs in this case.  ACSOL submitted an amicus brief in support of this challenge to Halloween signs.

Download a PDF of the decision:

McClendon – 11th Cir – Halloween signs – Jan 2022

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This is awesome news but I have a few questions.

  1. how will this affect those not in the 11th district courts area?
  2. Could this also have an affect on being imprisoned in our homes during certain hours with the outside lights off?
  3. Could the parents, just refuse to put a sign up since they are not on the registry and it is their house?

Thank you this is a win in my book!!!

Great news—I especially like that the judges did not find the Sheriff’s claims that all registrants were dangerous to be compelling.

The Court also stated “that yard signs alerting people to the residences of registered sex offenders on Halloween would prevent the sexual abuse of children” was not supported by evidence.

This is great. The courts are using evidence than fear mongering or falling back on the registry is regulatory and should be imposed.

Why is not ruling not across the board, applying to everyone?

I am humbled and shocked. I said before I didn’t think this would rule in our favor. I have been happily corrected and proven wrong. This is awesome! Rare win that applies to some of the strictest states. 🙂

I sure wish every state would start working on the Halloween lockdowns.

I bet the sheriff is pissed because he just set precedence to stop all SO yard signs in all the states in that federal circuit.

I love the following public statement from NARSOL. And thank you NARSOL for getting the ball rolling on this case including money to fight the case. And thank you ACSOL for the submitted amicus brief.

“NARSOL wishes to remind Sheriff Long and other law enforcement officials in Georgia that you took an oath to enforce the law. Your office as an elected sheriff does not permit you to make law. If you wish to formulate law, you should consider running for the Georgia General Assembly.”

So why aren’t there large stickers on the cars of DUI-convicted drivers:

“⚠️ Beware: Convicted DUI Driver. Use caution.⚠️” ???

Seriously, why would that be wrong?? It would certainly benefit public safety. After all, the re-offense rate for DUI drivers truly is very high.
What? “Public shaming” is wrong? But the intent is public safety, not public shaming. Therefore, it must be okay.

Wait…let me check with the 11th. 🤔

2022 marks the 10 year anniversary since Simi Valley, CA’s Halloween ordinance was stopped by Janice Bellucci and the folks who are now a part of this group (Formerly called CRSOL?). We later found it hadn’t been repealed though, and they tried to come back a couple years after the settlement and enforce it, prompting a threat of more legal action against the city. It was then that they repealed the whole thing. I remain grateful for those efforts, and for this organization for being there standing with us and our families for our rights.

Janice, thank you again for contributing an amicus brief to NARSOL’s lawsuit. We are both, I know, happy at the outcome of this suit.

It sounds to me that there’s a District Court judge who needs to learn about the First Amendment. What a cluster-f@*k of a decision at the lower level!

Sheriff Long posted the following response to the ruling on the BCSO Facebook page on Jan. 20:

“My job, as Sheriff, is to protect the people of this County. The appeals Court did not rule in my favor, but it was a fight I was determined to fight for the safety of our children. In the lower courts, we had two different rulings, one said we violated the rights of no one; the 2nd said we did. The ruling from the appeals court is what we must follow and this fight brings clarity to every Sheriff in the state of Georgia. Despite if I agree with this ruling or not, it is now the law of the land and I took an oath to follow those laws. I promise you, the people, that we will continue to protect your rights and protect this county’s most valuable assets, our children. Going forward my office will follow the ruling of the court and will not place the signs in sex offender’s yards, but we will, in fact, put safeguards in place to continue to protect your children. I will always stand up and fight for what I believe in and what I think will protect you, the people. It is an honor and privilege to serve as your Sheriff.” (Federal appeals court bans Butts County Sheriff Gary Long from posting signs in sex offenders’ yards)