By BI: County leaders responded to the opposition, but said Tuesday in a statement that the sign is legal and there’s nothing they can do about it.
In response to concerns within the community, St Johns County investigated the billboard located at A1A and Seashore Avenue and determined it to be in compliance with all state and local code enforcement laws regarding signage. While its message may be offensive for some members of our community, it is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which precludes the county from taking action.”
WND Becky Williams, a nearby resident, didn’t like the message and has started an online Care2 petition to get it taken down. As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday the petition has accumulated 17,409 supporters from around the world including 3,648 people who claim to be Florida residents.
She said she disagrees with the “ignorance” and “hate” contained in the message. “I want to let them know the billboard’s message does not speak for Saint Augustine residents. We are not a community that condones hate,” (Yet, apparently, you are a community that condemns the truth) she wrote on the Care2 petition page.
“I was horrified that something so hateful would be put up in my community,” Williams further states on her petition. “No one should be forced to see this offensive message on their way to work or school or just going about their day. This billboard is not representative of how the people of St. Augustine feel about our Muslim neighbors.” (And you speak for EVERY person in St Augustine?)
The person who purchased the billboard message remains unknown. Bob Harry, owner of the company that rents the billboard space, St. John’s Outdoor Advertising, told a local Fox TV affiliate that the message amounts to basic freedom of speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
“In the days, weeks and months ahead, Compassionate St. Augustine will do its part to help our residents and visitors to become more educated and aware that the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide are peaceful people who live by the golden rule and promote peace, civility and respect for all human beings,” Goldman said.
Yet these “peaceful” people live by the teachings of the quran (below) and we don’t see any petitions against it.
“I launched the petition not to curtail anyone’s First Amendment rights but more as an immediate way to show support for the people being outcast by this sign and also to show that there’s another voice in our community,” Williams said.
“I’m spreading the petition not to take away anyone’s freedom of speech but to give a forum to speak out for those who felt affronted by the sign because they are Muslim or feel the message besmirches the community where they’re from,” she added. “My first reaction, what I would have really loved to have done, would be to create our own billboard in response that shows a message of love and tolerance.”
She said her intention was not to shut down free speech but to show support for other voices and for Muslims in the community who might feel “ostracized” by the billboard message.
Williams said she is not a leftist ideologue who was trying to quell free speech. “Like I said it’s a way for people to get engaged immediately and it would be wonderful if it were removed but I also think freedom of speech doesn’t preclude people from being able to have a response, and that can take many differ forms and this petition is just one way of doing that.
A surprising number of people on the Left believe the First Amendment only applies to speech with which they agree. Many of the petition signers left comments on Williams’ Care2 petition saying they feel freedom of speech is “limited” to the extent that it does not cover messages like the one on the billboard.