To the Editor:

There has been a rash of thefts of lawn signs in Wilton. The disappearing signs oppose the installation of artificial turf at Allen’s Meadow. At least a half dozen signs have vanished from several properties across Wilton, and I suspect there are more that I am simply unaware of.

Do those who have removed the signs realize they are stomping on one of the most fundamental rights the citizens of this country hold dear — the right to free speech? In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “the display of political and other types of signs on residential property is a unique, important, and protected means of communication.”

“Signs that react to a local happening or express a view on a controversial issue both reflect and animate change in the life of a community,” Justice [John Paul] Stevens wrote in delivering the Supreme Court opinion in the case which clearly established lawn signs as a form of freedom of speech.

As an earlier Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” The way to oppose thoughts we disagree with, Holmes believed, is not to silence them, but to speak out for what we believe and allow our opinions the opportunity to compete in the “marketplace of ideas.”

Advocates on both sides of the Allen’s Meadow artificial turf issue have strong feelings about it. I know I do. But as much as I may disagree, I respect the right of my neighbors to express their opposing view.

While on the face of it the title to my letter may seem to overstate the issue, I believe it’s an important reminder that we shouldn’t tolerate seemingly minor infractions against a right that is fundamental to life in this country.

I hope the supporters of artificial turf will condemn the actions of those who are stealing signs and in doing so affirm their commitment to freedom of speech. And also show that they are good sportsmen/sportswomen!

Cathy Smith