Code violations for sign in Flanders dismissed after homeowner adds Bible verse
A Flanders woman who was facing code violations for placing a sign on her property was told by a judge she can keep the sign up after she made a few changes.
Susan Tocci put up a sign on her property off Flanders Road a few weeks ago that says, "Save a Life - Do not text & drive.”
She says the sign is meant to be a reminder to not drive distracted and it is also a dedication to her sister Barbara and her nephew’s fiancé, who were both killed in separate crashes.
“I want people to stay focused, stay on track, don't text and drive, don't drive under the influence, don't let somebody else's family feel the pain that our family feels every day,” Tocci says.
A local civic association complained about the sign, and Tocci was facing code violations as a result.
However, after Tocci added a religious verse to the sign, a Southampton Town justice dismissed the violations. This is because the addition of the verse makes the sign qualify as legal under a religious exemption.
“Anyone, anywhere is protected by their First Amendment rights, for freedom of religious expression and the freedoms associated with that,” says Ryan Murphy, of the Southampton Town Code Compliance. “The remainder of the sign, though, still has to be content neutral. You can't just use your freedom of religious expression to then to go up and put some kind of inflammatory message out.”
Other municipalities have different rules. Jonathan Korneich, a town of Brookhaven councilman, says adding a religious psalm wouldn't automatically exempt a sign under his town code.
“The town of Brookhaven doesn't take a position on content,” he says. “Our jurisdiction relates to location of the sign, and the size of it and the zoning of the property, where it's placed.”
Town of Southampton officials told News 12 they're considering putting up another "Don't text and drive sign" that could also include a memorial garden for car crash victims.