After a federal district court ruled unconstitutional a planned display of roadside crosses in Evansville, Indiana last year, the City decided not to appeal. The church sponsoring the display, however, stepped in to ask the 7th Circuit to overturn the ruling.
Yesterday the Court dismissed West Side church’s appeal on the ground that it lacked the standing to bring the question. The injunction, the court ruled, was imposed against the City and not the church. If West Side applied for another permit and was denied, then it would have standing to argue the merits of the case. Interestingly, though the Court cautioned against this approach.
From the opinion:
West Side’s road ahead might not necessarily get any easier if it ever attains standing to challenge the injunction. We question whether a reasonable observer would be put on notice that the “Cross the River” display is strictly private speech given the sheer magnitude of a display that takes up four blocks and has two signs alerting citizens that it is a private display. However, because that issue is not before us, we need not resolve it at this point.
The planned display involved 36 crosses each six feet tall spread out over 4 heavily trafficked city blocks in downtown Evansville. The district court said that’s just too much to avoid the appearance of endorsement. That passage concluding yesterday’s ruling sounds like the 7th Circuit is inclined to agree.