To many of their neighbors, Stephen and Mary Diehl are worse than any Scrooge or the Grinch - at least those holiday-haters eventually succumbed to the Christmas spirit.
For two years, in state and federal courts, the Diehls have tried to stop a neighboring church from playing Christmas music through loudspeakers atop its steeple.
This year, things are even more strained as the feud continues for a third Christmas in this otherwise serene village of about 700.
The Diehls say they have been harassed and attacked by angry residents and fear for their safety.
“It’s gotten very nasty, and it’s getting worse,” said Stephen Diehl, holding an unsigned letter left in his mailbox two weeks ago that called the couple “crazy” and “evil.” It said “people will torment you right out of town.”
“This last week left us pretty shook up,” he said. “We just don’t know what to expect.”
First Congregational Church, located 500 feet from the Diehl home, and its supporters say the Diehls are exaggerating, but state police said the couple has filed numerous complaints and requested more patrols.
The latest harassment has included honking cars, crank phone calls and obscene gestures and remarks from passers-by. But Stephen Diehl also has been assaulted on his front lawn and his wife has been confronted in her garden by an angry church member.
All the Diehls wanted was some peace and quiet. They sued the church in December 1994, complaining that holiday music blared from the speakers for hours at a time.
A state judge ordered the music cut back to two hours a day, but now both sides are accusing each other of failing to live up to a non-binding agreement reached with the help of a federal judge a year ago.
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