December 21, 2012 in Nation/World

Holiday lights’ message irks neighbors, stays flipped on

Michael Kunzelman Associated Press
 

NEW ORLEANS – A Louisiana woman ran afoul of police when she gave her neighbors an unusual holiday greeting: hanging Christmas lights in the shape of a middle finger.

Sarah Childs was in a dispute with some of her neighbors in Denham Springs, just east of Baton Rouge, so she decided to send a message with her decorations. Neighbors complained and police threatened to arrest her, so she and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sued the city.

A judge ruled in her favor Thursday.

“I imagine it will be back up before too long,” ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman said of the display.

Childs erected the lights on her roof last month. She has removed them twice – once after a police officer told her she could be fined and again after another officer threatened to arrest her, her lawsuit said.

U.S. District Judge James Brady issued an order temporarily barring city officials from interfering with the display. The two-page order said the city’s “continued efforts” to prevent Childs from displaying her holiday lights will violate her rights to free speech and due process. He scheduled a Jan. 7 hearing in Baton Rouge.

Denham Springs attorney Paeton Burkett said the city will comply with Brady’s order, but she declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“We’re going to sit down with everybody involved and see if there’s any merit to it,” she said.

Mayor Jimmy Durbin and police Chief Scott Jones, who are named as defendants, didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

The ACLU would not say exactly what the neighborhood dispute was about, and no one answered at a telephone listing for Childs.

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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