Granite City, Ill., residents will no longer have to tacitly endorse a church or face a fine, thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The Granite City municipal code required residents to purchase and prominently display sticker permits on their car windows each year. This year’s permit featured a photo of St. John United Church of Christ. Drivers who did not want to showcase the religious building faced up to $100 in fines for each day that the permit was not displayed. A local FFRF member opposed this use of city permits and contacted FFRF.
Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote to Granite City Mayor Edward Hagnauer in late April. Elliott pointed out that the mandatory church stickers violated the First Amendment rights of residents. "No person can be compelled to display a message that violates her rights of conscience," wrote Elliott. He added "The stickers give the impression to observers that the city approves of. . . St. John UCC."
In response to FFRF's complaint, the city council met on May 15 to adopt a resolution allowing residents to refrain from displaying the vehicle permits. The resolution provided that police would not enforce the sticker requirement. Residents would still have to pay the permit fee but a receipt would suffice as proof of a permit.