A Flemish woman who faced code violations for placing a sign on her property was told by a judge that she could keep the sign after making a few changes.
A few weeks ago, Susan Tocci put up a sign on her property near Flanders Road that read: “Save a life – Don’t text or drive”.
She says the sign is meant to be a reminder not to drive distracted and it’s also a dedication to her sister Barbara and her nephew’s fiance, both of whom were killed in separate crashes.
“I want people to stay focused, stay on track, don’t text and drive, drive under the influence, don’t let someone else’s family feel the pain that our family feels it every day, ”says Tocci.
A local civic association complained about the sign and Tocci faced code violations as a result.
However, after Tocci added a religious verse to the panel, a Southampton Town judge dismissed the violations. This is because the addition of the verse makes the sign qualified as legal under a religious exemption.
“Everyone, anywhere, is protected by their First Amendment rights, for freedom of religious expression and the freedoms that go with it,” said Ryan Murphy of Southampton Town Code Compliance. “The rest of the sign, however, should always be content neutral. You can’t just use your freedom of religious expression and then spread some sort of inflammatory message. “
Other municipalities have different rules. Jonathan Korneich, a Brookhaven city councilor, says adding a religious psalm would not automatically exempt a sign under its city code.
“The Town of Brookhaven is not taking a position on the content,” he says. “Our jurisdiction relates to the location of the sign, its size and the zoning of the property, where it is placed.”
Southampton city officials told News 12 they are considering putting up another “Do not text and drive” sign that could also include a memorial garden for victims of car accidents.