Rough Road for the Gospel: New York Tries to Censor Evangelist's Truck


Inside the Issues with Alan Sears



Alan Sears, Esquire

ADF President, CEO, & General Counsel




January 6, 2009
It's Daniel Burritt's truck.  It's his land.  It's his personal religious belief.

It's just not his legal right, says the New York Department of Transportation, to share that belief on that property, using that truck.

For the last 17 months, Burritt has stored supplies for his company, Acts II Construction, Inc., in a strategically parked trailer – on his private business property – facing traffic from both directions along U.S. Route 11. On that trailer, in large capital letters, is a message:

YOUR WAY OR GOD'S WAY?  JESUS SAID, "I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.  NO MAN COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT BY ME."  WILL YOU SPEND ETERNITY WITH JESUS?

Not long after he posted that message, officials from the nearby town of Gouverneur tried to force him to remove it but backed off after Alliance Defense Fund allied attorneys contacted them. Then, in May of last year, Burritt received a letter from the New York State Department of Transportation accusing him of violating state law by posting his message without a permit.  More than that, they said, the message-bedecked trailer was a "public nuisance." Either Burritt could remove the message, or they would.

ADF attorneys quickly pointed out that NYDOT doesn't require permits for similar displays of commercial messages and filed suit in federal court to protect Burritt's First Amendment rights.  ADF also persuaded NYDOT to leave the trailer alone until the court ruled on the case, one way or another.

Well, last month, the court ruled in favor of Burritt.  On December 22, a federal judge declined NYDOT's request to drop the case and issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state from disturbing Burritt's trailer until the rest of his case is settled.

"Christians shouldn't be singled out and penalized for sharing their beliefs," said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "We are pleased the court recognizes that displaying a religious message on private property has always been protected under the First Amendment." Bowman added that the state violated the Constitution in treating religion less favorably than business by not taking into account that a central aspect of Burritt's construction business is evangelism.

A copy of the decision and order in the lawsuit Burritt v. New York State Department of Transportation issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York is available at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/BurrittDecisionOrder.pdf.

Please be in prayer for all those across the country, like Daniel Burritt, who are trying to give a courageous, legal witness to the Truth.  And pray, too, for our attorneys, as we continue to defend the increasingly beleaguered right of all Americans to hear and speak that Truth.

There was once a day that the demand of the ACLU and its government allies for this sort of "religious cleansing" was ignored or undefended.  Thanks to you, the ministry of the Alliance Defense Fund has been able to defend many believers. Pray God will enable us to defend many more.