A federal court today granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that, in effect, stops a Halloween sign requirement for all registrants in Missouri. Specifically, the court order rules that state and local governments in Missouri “are temporarily enjoined from enforcing” the Halloween sign requirement. The court order leaves in place additional Halloween requirements such as turning off all outside residential lighting after 5 p.m. on Halloween.
“This is a significant victory for registrants in Missouri,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci and lead counsel in the lawsuit. “They will not have to endanger themselves, their families and their property on Halloween by posting a sign on the front door of their residence.”
In its decision, the court agreed with every legal argument made on behalf of plaintiff Thomas Sanderson, who resides in the city of Hazelwood, Missouri. That is, the court agreed that the Halloween sign requirement was both government speech and compelled speech. As a result, the court determined that the sign requirement violated the First Amendment.
Also in its decision, the court recognized that the government has a “compelling interest” in restricting certain conduct of registrants. The court then determined that the sign requirement was “not narrowly drawn to accomplish those ends.”
Further, in its decision the court stated that registrants “are likely to suffer irreparable harm this year on Halloween absent the issuance of a temporary restraining order.” The court then stated that the government failed to show that the Halloween sign requirement “has or will increase public safety.”
The TRO issued today is valid for 14 days and thus stops the Halloween sign requirement this year. The court has scheduled a hearing on November 9 regarding whether to grant a Preliminary Injunction, which if granted, would continue to stop that sign requirement for an additional period of time.