Farmer vs Township Over 1st Amendment Rights

Gaines Charter Township is located in Kent County, Michigan, about 13 miles due south Grand Rapids.  Covering 36 square miles, the township has 3 unincorporated communities and around 25,000 people.  A considerable portion of the township is composed of farms and small cattle ranches.

Vern Verduin has a 40 acre cattle ranch in Gaines Township and he’s never been any trouble to anyone until recently.  Vern doesn’t like the way the country is being run.  He sees the Obama administration as being what it is, a socialist government.  So he decided to exercise his First Amendment rights of free speech when he placed two farming trailers in the pasture on his land.

On one trailer, he placed a large banner that read:

 “Marxism/Socialism = Hunger and Poverty”

On the other trailer, he placed a second banner reading:

“Obama’s ‘Mission Accomplished,’ 8% Unemployment, 16 Trillion Debt”

His banners were visible from the nearby highway.  Vern says that he’s had people stop and thank him for the banners.  There have been people who were from other countries that did not have any freedom of speech that thanked him and hugged him for his messages.

The signs weren’t hurting anyone and they were on his own property, but they didn’t set too well with the township leaders who told Vern they were a violation of the sign codes and that he had to take them down.  Their ordinance read that political signs could be no larger than 20 square feet and only displayed 45 days prior to an election and 10 days after an election.

Vern looked up the sign ordinances and discovered that other non-political signs could be up to 30 square feet and remain up indefinitely.  This rankled his feathers and he dug his spurs in, ready for the fight, when he refused to remove the two banners.

The township dudes weren’t backing down either, so they fined Vern $50 for violating the township’s sign ordinance.   It wasn’t the money but the principle that Vern decided to fight for.  Fortunately, the Rutherford Institute came to bat for Vern and represented him in state district court last week.

John W. Whitehead, President of the Rutherford Institute commented on the case saying:

“Americans have a clear First Amendment right to freedom of political expression, whether that ‘expression’ takes place at a podium, on a t-shirt, a billboard, a picket sign, or on the side of a farm truck parked on private property as in the case of Vern Verduin.  By denying this farmer the right to freely express his political views on his own property, no less, city officials have essentially done away with one of the key ingredients in a democracy such as ours, which is the right to freely speak our minds to and about those who represent us. It is our hope the courts will recognize and rectify this wrong.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving along highways and have seen huge billboards off in someone’s field advertising fireworks or adult XXX bookstores and no one seems to care.  I’ve also seen barns painted with huge advertisements on their sides.  But let one lone cattle rancher put up a banner, not a sign, but a banner on the sides of his trailers that condemn President Obama and here comes the government telling him he can’t do that.

If Vern is forced by the courts to take down the banners, I would then hand paint the same message on the side of the trailer.  It wouldn’t be a banner nor would it be a sign.  How many tractor trailers do you see on the highway with some sort of wording, logo or image painted on it?  His trailers would be no different than others, except the message painted on their sides.  I wonder what the township sign lords would do then?



19 thoughts on “Farmer vs Township Over 1st Amendment Rights

  1. dntmkmecomoverther says:

    This 'township' needs a new slate of leaders. The old ones are like diapers...full of shmit and needing changed.

  2. The people of this country need to wake up. Thank you Vern for having some backbone, I hope the other people of the township will support you.

  3. to answer the author's closing question, the township would then claim that the trailer itself is a sign and therefore in violation of the ordinance. No win situation if he doesn't prevail in court at this point.
    However he should do whatever he can to fight this, including painting the message on the sides of his trailers. Go for it Vern.

    • Keep us posted.... I will come help paint the trailers......

    • Well he could hitch it up and pull it to town when shopping. He could use it for many trips to the store and travel to other cities. Hell I think I would send him some money for fuel. If he would tow it across the nation. Then back to town hauling freight each way.

  4. If you freedom of speech... all your freedoms will be taken. With all due respect to Mr Shakespeare..
    Something Wicked this way comes, creeping in....... until your all freedom is gone. Wake up sheeple!

  5. You mean the founding fathers really meant free speech?? Holy smokes. Maybe it was only for a regulated militia. Or was that that other pesky amendment??

  6. A BIG thank you to both this brave farmer and to Rutherford Institute.

  7. When the depth of the national insanity goes to this level you know we're in trouble.

    See The Two Minute Conservative at: and when you speak ladies will swoon and liberal gentlemen will weep.

  8. CharlieFromMass says:

    If they demonstrated equal actions towards Republican and Democrats (which we don't know one way or the other), they're being fair, still of questionable Constitutionality, but fair.

    My question is that these aren't campaign posters. I can see being required to take down campagin posters and signs within X days after the election. These are statement of not only opinion, but quantifiable fact.

    If he resorts to painting those trailers, I'll chip in a few bucks to help pay for the the paint.

    • No, unconstitutional = unfair. Treating everyone the same does not make it fair. It is also not of QUESTIONABLE Constitutionality. It is UNQUESTIONABLY unconstitutional.

  9. IF we don't fight anti-constitutionalists like these libs in Vern's township (which ain't even a 'real' town) about these abuses, before long you'll be fined for farting in your own bathroom while saying, 'that one's for you, 0bama'. They would also likely sic the EPA on you for 'emissions'.

  10. This is happening in government positions also. If you are not obviously a democrat you are ran off the job.

  11. real jew news dot com.......get the truth

  12. I would imagine a good lawyer could argue the sign is opinion based, not politically based.

  13. old_salty_dawg99 says:

    This is just another LIBERAL IGNORANCE gone wild item.The Left hates anyone who does not buy their LIES and STUPIDITY.The law is on his side Constitutionally but I fear the court mayt be against him idealogically.Far to many LIBERAL Judges exist today and they love to strip Americans of their rights and legislate from the bench even though that isUncostitutional.The Ninth Circuit Court in California is the worst offender yet it still exists.I pray that the Sane members of this Nation stop the township and it's UNCONSTITUTIONAL power grab but I fear it will take a long time and much money to stop them.What is needed there is New leadership and to throw the LIBERAL IGNORANCE and those who spew it out of office permanantly.

  14. The people of the township can start a recall of the officials if they choose. Can't support the 1st Amendment? You should not hold public office. Stand with Vern!

  15. Betcha, if the sign said " We love Obama Health Care", they would annoint him to sainthood.
    But that, would not be political of course.