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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: September 27, 2019 09:03 AM
From: Representative John A. Lawrence
To: All House members
Subject: COSPONSOR MEMO - Signs for Religious Organizations
Dear Colleagues –


A church in my district was recently ordered to remove their sign along the road because it technically violates provisions of the Outdoor Advertising Control Act of 1971. My proposal creates a narrow exemption to current law, permitting a religious institution to maintain one sign along the road.


By way of background, the highway beautification movement came to the fore in the late 1960s. Championed by First Lady Ladybird Johnson, the goal was to reduce unsightly billboards and roadside clutter at a time when the nation’s Interstate Highway System was being developed. Both federal and state laws were enacted, and in my view, the intentions of these laws are very laudable. I believe that they have generally served our state and nation well.

With that in mind, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Control Act of 1971 does not permit a church or other religious institution to erect or maintain a sign unless it meets very specific criteria. While hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such church signs have existed across the Commonwealth for decades without issue, PennDOT has become more aggressive in enforcing the letter of the law in recent days. Recently, a church in my district was ordered to remove their church sign, despite the fact that the church has a township permit for the sign, and the sign has been in the same location for at least thirty years. To be very clear, this sign is similar to the type of sign that practically every church in America has in front of it.

This proposal permits a religious institution to have one two-sided sign, provided that it is near their facility and has local municipal approval.

I would appreciate your support of this commonsense proposal.

Introduced as HB1985