DENHAM SPRINGS, La. -- The ACLU is backing a woman who created stir when she installed Christmas lights on the outside of her home in the shape of a hand with an extended middle finger.
Sarah Childs' display caused an uproar in Denham Springs, and according to the ACLU of Louisiana, Childs was wrongly ordered by a police officer to take down the decorations or be taken to jail.
The ACLU believes that this violates Childs' First Amendment rights and has filed a suit in federal court. The Civil Rights groups sought a temporary restraining order, an injuction, damages and attorney's fees on behalf of Childs, according to Margorie Esman, executive director for the ACLU of Louisiana.
U.S. District Court Judge James Brady agreed with Childs and granted a temporary restraining order, blocking Denham Springs from forcing Childs to take down the display. A hearing on Childs’ request for a preliminary injunction will be held on Jan. 7. Esman called the decision a "victory for the First Amendment and the rule of law."
"Events that led to the lawsuit began several weeks ago, when, as part of a long-running personal dispute with neighbors, Childs installed her display. The neighbors complained to the police, and an officer – without any basis in law - instructed her to remove the display or face arrest," said a statement from the ACLU.
Childs reportedly took down her decorations, but after a spate media coverage was noticed by the ACLU, Childs reinstalled the lights. Officials were not amused.
"The city responded first by ticketing her for a number of unrelated infractions, but when that failed to intimidate Childs, police once again instructed her – without legal basis - to remove the display or be taken to jail. An officer came to her home, ordered her onto the roof without legal authority, and watched from her yard while she removed the display," said a statement from the ACLU.
“This case is about protecting law-abiding people from police overreaching,” said Esman. “In a free society, we cannot allow law enforcement to invent ways to coerce people into conforming to their neighbors’ tastes or desires. In fact the police have a duty to protect the rights of dissenters, and the City of Denham Springs has failed in that obligation to Sarah Childs.”