Puppies + Bureaucrats = Federal Free Speech Lawsuit

What do you get when you mix bureaucrats with a bunch of adorable puppies?

In Kim Houghton’s case, you get a major First Amendment lawsuit.

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Kim Houghton decided after a successful, 20-year career in advertising that she wanted more. She wanted to realize her American Dream and become an entrepreneur in a business focused on dogs.

She had the gumption to quit her job and make her dream come true: Wag More Dogs is a high-end canine daycare located next to a popular dog park in Arlington, Virginia. Kim commissioned an outdoor mural on her wall that has cartoon dogs, bones and paw prints as a way to give something back to the park she’d frequented for years, and build up some good will for her new business.

The mural was a big hit. After all, who doesn’t like puppies? Things were smooth for a few months.

And then Arlington bureaucrats got involved.

Officials blocked Kim’s building permit and told her that she could not open unless she painted over the mural or covered it with a blue tarp.

Her crime?

Painting a piece of art that–in the eyes of government officials–had too strong a “relationship” to her business.

According to city bureaucrats, a mural that depicted something other than dogs would be fine. Turn those adorable puppies into fire-breathing dragons or flying pink unicorns and she’d be back in business.

But because Kim’s sign shows puppies, it’s illegal.

Under the threat of losing her American Dream, Kim was forced to purchase an expensive tarp and cover the mural. Several months later, it remains covered.

Today [FRIDAY], the Institute for Justice is showing up in federal court to change that. Economic liberty expert Rob Frommer, the IJ attorney who filed the federal lawsuit on Kim’s behalf, is asking a judge to allow Kim to remove the tarp and once again display her mural. Specifically, Rob wants a preliminary injunction so the law cannot be enforced until the lawsuit is settled.

As Rob explains in the Daily Caller:

Today I will ask the judge for a preliminary injunction, meaning we want the court to temporarily stop the city from enforcing this terrible law until our lawsuit strikes it down for good. When we prevail, we will have done more than just help Kim tear down a tarp. We will have advanced the cause of liberty by vindicating in federal court a simple but incredibly important legal principle: Under the First Amendment the right to speak is just that, a right–not a privilege for government officials to dole out as they please.

The editorial board of the Washington Post agrees with Rob. In a powerful editorial written in conjunction with the launch of the lawsuit, the paper wrote:

[The lawsuit] notes that there would not have been a problem if the mural depicted flowers, dragons or ponies instead of dogs. The absurdity that reveals should cause Arlington residents to wonder about their government’s grasp of common sense.

What do you think?

Are Arlington officials using common sense? Or are they violating Kim’s rights by playing art critic with her sign? Please let us know your thoughts on our facebook page.