General Question

fluthaway1's avatar

Can a public business put up a sign expressing their political opinion and obscenity?

Asked by fluthaway1 (20points) February 2nd, 2022 from iPhone

This is a throwaway account. I didn’t want to get my original account involve in a potential flamewar since this question will be about a topical matter. Basically, I saw a political symbol put up in front of a public business and away from its entrance when I was shopping at a nearby store. Not on a private property or on someone’s car, but put on an actual public establishment where kids could see it passing by. I’m also not sure if the sign was place there by the business owners themselves or by a random person without the owners’ knowledge. But if this stunt was intended by the owners, can they really do that or should I respond to anything about it at all? I don’t really care about anyone’s personal politics, I’m just a little more concern about its disruptive nature and obscenity.

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12 Answers

filmfann's avatar

I live in a Red County in a Blue State. This seems to encourage businesses to brag about being super-Trumpy.
There is a business close to my house that has posted a lot of pro-Trump (and anti-democratic) signs.
I went in once and won’t go back.

JLoon's avatar

Within certain limits, yes.

Basically, signage which includes political messaging is protected as a form of free speech under the 1st Ammendment. HOWEVER – that protection is subject to regulation if the sign is located on public rather than private property, if the message contains language which advoctes violence or discrimination against an individual or protected group, or when it includes words or imagery considered obscene or offensive.

Besides that, signs displayed on businesses have to conform to any zoning or code regulations that apply to similar businesses in the same area or jurisdiction :

elbanditoroso's avatar

Of course they can.

(I live in a county that is slowly turning blue in a mostly red state).

Two points:

1) the business can put up any political sign it wants. They take the risk that they may lose customers. Their choice.

2) No one but that business has any right to put up a sign on any business. Their shop, their choice.

Corollary to #2 – if someone DOES put up a sign at a business that the business disapproves of, the business has the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to take it down.

Political messaging on private property (a business) is solely the interest of the business owner. They are not obligated to display political signs under any circumstances.

Public property – is another issue altogether.

fluthaway1's avatar

@filmfann I live in a blue county in a blue state where I see this take place. Their business, their problem I suppose (if it’s actually their action). I never use this business before, and less likely ever will at point.

fluthaway1's avatar

@elbanditoroso What if the establishment is a local rec center made accessible to the public?

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Yup, you can be a “dumb ass” and it is freedom of speech.

We have a guy in town that after Trump lost, put an American flag upside down (sign of distress) and under it a F*&K Biden flag in in Trump colors on his flag pole. It was his right to act as an “asshole” !

Apparently the local police gave him a “blue line” flag and local Marine Corps League gave him a Marine Corp flag to fly. His house was two house house from the elementary school bus stop.

SnipSnip's avatar

Business owners can certainly post political messages. As for obscenity, no, but there is a very specific Supreme Court created definition of obscenity. Why don’t you just call city hall and ask if the posting is allowed. Often cities have ordinances about this kind of thing.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@fluthaway1 if it’s a local rec center, it’s quite likely is is owned by the city or county, and therefore a public building.

Zaku's avatar

Businesses can post political stuff, and even foul language, but that will tend to lose them business. Especially if people take pictures of those signs and post them on Google Maps and/or other places on the Internet, so that even if they take them down, they get associated with their signs for a long long time.

Of course, some shops might do ok with polarized or even obscene ads, if it fits the demographics of enough of their customers well enough.

On the other hand, if they put up signs expressing extreme favor for politicians who eventually get revealed as undeniably the worst sort of people, that may bite them.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Yes, both parties do that here, making their political stance very clear.
In my opinion, obscene language in a public area is ignorant but it’s on t-shirts, car stickers and everywhere now. F%$k Trump or Biden, is very typical.

kritiper's avatar

Yes. I wouldn’t do it because I might offend a potential customer and I need/want all the customers I can get.

Ikara's avatar

Freedom of speech.
They can say “almost” anything they want.
Something like all N-words (referring to black individuals) will be hung and shot, or Blacks not welcome here, are not allowed because a threat of public violence and discrimination is mentioned. (Business’s have the right to refuse service if you are an a-hole or a Karen, but not if it is because of your skin color, gender, religion, or disability)

Use of obscene language such as the F-bomb or the C-word (referring to female genitalia) could also be illegal as it could be seem as public indecency… but I believe that may only apply if the sign is outside. If it is indoors where you chose to enter, then you willingly subjected yourself to seeing it up close.
It also depends on whether this is a corporate chain or a small business. Laws may also vary depending on state and town.
Looking up your town’s specific webpage (which will end with .gov) will provide you with more concrete answers, or you can email that website and your inquiry will be sent to someone who knows which laws it pertains to and they will look up the answer for you.)

However, unless you are personally willing to take on the financial burden of filling a legal suit to have the offensive sign removed, there is nothing you can do about it. Just don’t shop there

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