The Roeland Park City Council’s consideration of an ordinance change that would allow St. Agnes Catholic Church to continue displaying dozens of crosses in its yard as part of abortion awareness month each year has drawn a rebuke from a former member of the governing body.
Resident Scott Gregory sat on the city council in the mid-2000s when Roeland Park approved its current sign ordinance, which allows property owners to display up to three signs at a time. Because the crosses St. Agnes uses in its display are considered signs under city code, its annual display violates the ordinance. Staff presented an amendment for consideration earlier this month that would wave the three-sign restriction for non-profit religious, educational or community service organizations. In a message sent to the governing body on Friday, Gregory argues that creating a special exemption from the three-sign limit would open the city up to charges of preferential treatment.
Part of Gregory’s message to the governing body is copied below:
As a member of the Council I voted for the current sign ordinance, which was drafted and passed in reaction to the Prairie Village incident involving a resident on Roe who posted extraordinary signage against the War on Iraq. Prairie Village lost. Roeland Park’s ordinance was carefully crafted to deal with signs generically. It does not mention political signs. Treating all signs alike was meant to avoid potential issues regarding freedom of speech, be they issues of religion, politics or garage sales. If anyone may have three signs, then all are treated equally. Thus no one’s freedom of speech is being impinged. St. Agnes seeks to be treated differently from the rest of us. Granting a special dispensation to a religious organization allowing the posting of political signs that no one else may post is to put the City in the position of endorsing that religious organization to the exclusion of the rest of us. THAT is religious discrimination.
We all know that codes are important for the appearance of our community. Willy-nilly, discriminatory administration of codes is unfair to the residents at large, not to mention the inherent ugliness in appearance and sentiment in unfettered posting of political signs by a select few.