Religious Freedoms vs. Land-Use Laws

A Vermont couple is challenging the decision of a state zoning commission that limits their right to illuminate a 24 foot cross on their own property to several weeks around Christmas.
February 7, 2011, 12pm PST | Victor Negrete
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This article describes the story of a couple that has started a First Amendment battle in Lyndon, Vermont.

The couple, Richard and Joan Downing, claim that the 24-foot-tall cross is a constitutionally protected expression of their faith. Neighbors of the Downings and land use officials in Vermont, however, believe that the illuminated cross detracts from the natural beauty of the town and want it to come down.

Patricia Salkin, an Albany Law School professor and land use expert, explains the situation as similar to a person who wants to post a sign on private property that reads "I hate the president." The sign is protected as free speech under the Constitution, however, Salkin says, "if it's a sign so out of scale with the character of the community, the municipality might say it can't be bigger than X-dimension."

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Published on Monday, February 7, 2011 in BurlingtonFreePress.com
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