Despite initial acceptance, a Michigan town rejected a street banner promoting the annual National Day of Prayer.
An employee of the city of Ludington, Mich., took a $100 fee from the local National Day of Prayer organizers, but only a few days before the May 4 commemoration, the city refused to hang the banner, reported the Ludington Daily News.
The group paid $350 for the sign, which was made after getting the city’s OK.
In the wake of the controversy, Ludington has enacted a new policy making it clear any banner must specify an event rather than state a cause.
The National Day of Prayer banner read “National Day of Prayer, first Thursday in May.”
City councilors said the sign would have been allowed if it had included the word “rally” or something similar, or had more detail about where and when events would be held.
The Mason County National Day of Prayer organizers, represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, argued the city “has created a limited public forum by allowing the display of banners of private persons and organizations for the purpose of advertising local events of benefit to the community.”
City Attorney Roger Anderson disagreed, saying if it’s a public forum, “that’ll be the end to banners.”
The city, Anderson said, won’t discriminate which organizations can place signs, but instead set a policy that allows groups to promote events of general interest to the community.
Local NDP representative Melissa Thompson said the city should have delayed its decision and read the ACLJ’s opinion.
She pointed out the group had the $350 banner made only after the city accepted it and cashed the fee check.
The banner had no space for additional wording, Thompson insisted.
“It’s frustrating,” she said.
The NDP organizers also were rejected in 2003 when the city attorney sent a written denial in April. The group took no action because they felt there was not enough time before the first Thursday in May.
The group tried again this year, making the request in early February. But the rejection didn’t come until April 26.
The new policy, approved by a 5-4 city council vote, states, “It is not the intent of the city to create a forum or location for public speech. Thus, banners that are primarily for the purpose of advocating particular political, religious or other points of view, candidate for office, or advertising a product or service are not permitted.