Judge Rules Woman Is Allowed To Flip Off Neighbors With Xmas Lights For Now

from the and-a-happy-screw-you dept

As I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before, I am exceptionally comfortable with profanity, and believe it's a form of free speech that should be protected. The right to say words does not end because of the interpretation of those words by someone else. That's why I cheered on Tim Cushing's piece on an SVSU student who used a vulgar poster to give his school just enough rope to hang itself from the irony rafters. There are certain situations that require use of vulgar words or gestures as a release, or even as the proper descriptive expression. For instance, let's say your neighbors are acting like enormous anuses while you're setting up your Christmas lights; what's the proper way to tell them what you think of them?

Well, if you answered "craft my Christmas lights into a giant middle finger pointed at my neighbors house", then give yourself a pat on the back because a court recently ruled that doing so didn't violate any laws and is protected free speech.
A district court judge rule this week that a Louisiana woman could hang her Christmas lights in the shape of a middle finger, as a nasty holiday “greeting” to her neighbors. Police initially threatened to arrest Sarah Childs for her illuminated display, but with the help of the ACLU, Child won her suit against the city.

That Mediaite summary is slightly exaggerated, because she didn't quite "win" the lawsuit yet. The judge just granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting police from stopping the display, with a full hearing to take place in the New Year. However, the judge does say it's likely that she's going to win:

The Court finds that Defendants' continued efforts to prevent Plaintiff from displaying her holiday lights will result in an infringement of Plaintiff's rights of free speech and due process, and that the Plaintiff has demonstrated a likelihood of succeeding in her argument that this infringement is impermissable under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.
Yes, this woman, who is my new personal hero, actually took this case to court because she really wanted to flip off her neighbors in the most festive manner possible. The story goes mostly as you'd expect. Childs put the lights up, was threatened with arrest, took them down...and then decided that arrest was worth it so she put up the giant glowing "bird" once more. The police showed up again, this time threatening to arrest Childs for violating the Denham Springs obscentity statute, which is a pretty ballsy threat considering the city doesn't even have an obscentity statute. That's where this gets really fun.
After she contacted the local ACLU for help with a lawsuit, the city officers issued her two unrelated tickets that attorneys call a “collateral attack”: one for obstructing the flow of traffic as she was walking down the street and another for disturbing the peace while singing a song about her fight with neighbors in her driveway.
An entire song about her fight with her neighbors, and she decided to sing it to them? My lord, if I were single I'd hunt this wonderful woman down so that we could spend a lovely weekend together cursing at nuns or something. In any case, the court ruled in her favor on free speech and due process violations, pending a full hearing in January, well after the holiday season.

 


 


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Christopher Best (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:14am

    Ah man, sometimes I miss Louisiana. Good on Sarah, and good on that Judge for standing up for what's right.

    Unfortunately, small-town cops back home tended to be power-mad pricks... Making up obscenity statutes seems about par for the course.

     

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  2.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:34am

    Re:

    It's not limited to small towns. What do you think obscenity statutes and obstruction exist for?

    I'm surprised they didn't try to come up with a bogus felony just to spitefully put her in jail temporarily.

     

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  3.  
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    Michael, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:38am

    DOJ

    It's a good thing the DOJ didn't get involved. They would have seized the lights first, waited around for a year claiming they had tons of evidence, and then gave them back quietly while claiming their efforts are thwarting some kind of terrorism.

     

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  4.  
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    Jake, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:38am

    Just because you can doesn't mean you should, but I guess you lot have enough prison overcrowding issues already without making it illegal to be a dick.

     

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  5.  
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    Michael, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:40am

    Re:

    From what I have read so far in the links, if it were illegal to be a dick in that town, her neighbor would have already been sitting in a jail cell playing cards with the police officers that wrote the bogus tickets.

    There wouldn't have been a light display at all.

     

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  6.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:41am

    If you've managed, through your words and actions, to drive your neighbor to construct a giant middle finger out of Christmas lights, then you have, WITHOUT A DOUBT, earned this symbol of disdain. The proper response is either:

    a.) wholeheartedly apologize, or
    b.) shut the hell up and take your punishment.

    Taking the "legal" route only proves you're still a child, one who runs and tattles when the people you treat horribly start fighting back.

     

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  7.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:44am

    Re:

    I'd have done C) Laugh out loud, congratulate them on such an awesome display, and then apologize and see if we can work things out

    (I consider insulting people to be an art-form. The better crafted your insult, the more my admiration of you increases).

     

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  8.  
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    Christopher Best (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:44am

    Missing Option

    c) Make an even bigger middle finger pointing back at your neighbor

     

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  9.  
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    scothony (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    This entire country (USA) was founded on the right to "be a dick", because we could do so without being persecuted/prosecuted. It's damn fine to see that even in this day of "transparency" and obviscated rights, there are those that still remember why we're here!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re:

    "I'd have done C) Laugh out loud, congratulate them on such an awesome display, and then apologize and see if we can work things out

    (I consider insulting people to be an art-form. The better crafted your insult, the more my admiration of you increases)."

    I completely agree with your entire post and feel the same. If you do a great job, well... [tips hat in your direction].

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:50am

    Re: Missing Option

    Or a giant mirror

     

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  12.  
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    S. T. Stone, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:50am

    I want to retroactively buy this woman something for Christmas, then have her flip me off as I delivered it to her.

     

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  13.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 11:56am

    Speaking of Holiday Displays...

    I'm surprised that this lady in Arizona didn't get hit with some sort of IP lawsuit for her holiday display:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/12/ditto-christmas-lights-display-arizona_n_228379 6.html

    She has to being doing something illegal since she is "cashing in" on the "sweat of the brow" of her neighbors, right? Isn't that how it works AJ?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 12:05pm

    the really worrying thing is, yet again, the police trump up any and all charges they like just to get at her. what is needed here is for the Police Force in general there and the officers concerned in particular, to be severely reprimanded for their conduct, including giving a public apology to her.

     

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  15.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    I love this. It would never happen in the UK as you would be arrested, flogged and thrown in jail never to be seen again.

    We don't handle rudeness very well.

     

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  16.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    [Runs out, buys hat, puts it on, tips back]

     

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  17.  
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    Brendy, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re:

    It's not limited to small towns. Cops are power-mad pricks anywhere I've been...

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 12:57pm

    Re:

    That's simply not true you pleb.

     

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  19.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Missing Option

    They could escalate by responding to the 'partridge in a pear tree' with a display of 'two turtle doves.'

     

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  20.  
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    davebarnes (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 2:13pm

    In a way, funny

    "one for obstructing the flow of traffic as she was walking down the street"
    There are no sidewalks in her neighborhood. In fact, most of the town has no sidewalks. So, everyone who walks around town "obstructs" traffic.
    One can only hope that the ACLU is awarded legal fees.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 2:46pm

    Re: Missing Option

    That would only result in a Christmas Lights Middle Finger arms race.

     

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  22.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re: Missing Option

    Which would be awesome!

     

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  23.  
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    The Old Man in The Sea, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    Profanity and Speech

    What is considered profanity changes over time. Even though young Tim is "exceptionally comfortable with profanity, and believe it's a form of free speech that should be protected", I wonder how much he would use in civil company?

    It is an "earthy" form of speech and can have its place. However, these days it has lost much of its power because it is becoming the normal mode of speech.

    Some years ago, a couple of academics here in Australia looked at the use of profanity and expletives in the common tongue. They found it was used at all levels. They came to a conclusion that I have since though much about which is that (at least here in this country) it is a form of stuttering. Using profanity verbally appears to have either arisen because we have slowed down our thinking processes or is slowing down our thinking processes.

    Since that time, I have noticed a tendency for people to not be able to think quickly on their feet (particularly those whose speech patterns include much profanity).

    I remember one of our mates at uni who was known to never swear and never utter an expletive who one day let a single word drop. It stunned us all and we knew something extremely important had happened. We stood up and took notice.

    People will use profanity and some people have no other means of communicating. I can't say I find it pleasant to listen to since most of it is utterly pointless anyway and gets in the road of communication. If you like it is the noise on any communication channel - just straight out annoying.

    But I look at it this way, if we start to arrest people for profanity or legislate it away, new forms will takes its place - simply witness the blasphemy laws in England in the 16th and 17th century - new words were coined to blaspheme and get around the laws put in place.

    People make their choices about everything, whether to be offended with what someone says or does to retaliating for perceived offences. But in the end, you will reap what you sow, good or bad.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 5:38pm

    Aside from the fact that that woman is nasty piece of work and I probably would never be friends with such person that feels so strongly about what others think about her that she needs and feels compelled to give back in such public manner, she was to go defend herself in court and I hope ultimately wins, this should not be a matter for the judicial system.

    I still wouldn't talk to her in the streets though, but I am happy that her rights and by proxy my own are being upheld.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 6:07pm

    Re:

    I think of it as Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.

    The more somebody tries to harm you the more you should just improve your life, why waste time and energy to display such nasty message and on a day that is supposed to be about letting it go.

    Please note that I do understand perfectly how people can be nasty to each other, I did it a lot when I was younger, I just don't see the point.
    When you start getting paranoid and trying the "pay back" is the time the other side won already.

    Aside from that public nastiness is public it doesn't target only the object of your disaffect it also targets others who may be or not as bad or even deserve such things, like the classic neibourgs loud sound noises dispute where one guy who gets tired of what his perceive as the noise neighbor and start making noise too, it affects everybody good or bad.

    Most probably both parties are nasty people,

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Like in Missouri, where the highway patrol is made up of power-mad pricks and thieves like B.D. "Brad" Odle.

     

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  27.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 28th, 2012 @ 9:14pm

    Re: Re: Missing Option

    And the downside would be...?

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2012 @ 10:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Missing Option

    Accelerated global warming.

     

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  29.  
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    cliff Anderson, Dec 29th, 2012 @ 4:44am

    filthy talk

    It is a shame americans or all people for that matter has to put descriptive words in a sentence to be understood. Some words don't even fit when used in a sentence.the writer sounds like someome that would be repulsive to most people also.If it's one thing I have found out, you play, you pay.Or as another put it,you reap what you sow. Maybe it would help going to a good church to learn a better language.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2012 @ 6:52am

    Re: filthy talk

    Except for taking God's name in vain, it's man that determines what a profanity is. God didn't say the F-word, S-word and the like are "bad words" and you shouldn't say them. That's something man made up.

     

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  31.  
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    birdsong123, Dec 29th, 2012 @ 10:08am

    profanity

    Well, I guess everyone has forgotten why we put up Christmas lights in the first place. I'M celebrating the Christ's birthday....NOT getting revenge on my neighbors....who happen to be good people! And even if they weren't, I wouldn't give them the 'bird'.
    Grow up, woman!

     

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  32.  
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    birdsong123, Dec 29th, 2012 @ 10:10am

    profanity

    Well, I guess everyone has forgotten why we put up Christmas lights in the first place. I'M celebrating the Christ's birthday....NOT getting revenge on my neighbors....who happen to be good people! And even if they weren't, I wouldn't give them the 'bird'.
    Grow up, woman!

     

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  33.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 2nd, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re:

    Yes, people have a right to be a prick.

    And other people have a right to speak, sing or express in lights what a prick they are.

     

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  34.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 3rd, 2013 @ 3:31am

    And I thought the guy playing Guitar Hero on his garage door was epic...

    I second Tim, if I were single I'd be chasing her. Actually, I'm planning to give my neighbors a dog 'shirt' with a big middle finger. You know, dog + apartment + family leaving the dog alone all day = a lot of annoyance and barking.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 8:23am

    Oh man!!! This bitch is awesome rofl! I can't wait till the 4th of July! I bet she will buy some pretty fucking creative fireworks!

     

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  36.  
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    Becky, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 4:33pm

    Haha. Awesome!

    Thanks for posting :)

     

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  37.  
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    Fernandez, Mar 8th, 2013 @ 3:07am

    That was fantastic !!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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