Sarah Childs had a beef with her neighbor and wanted the whole world to know about it. So on her property in Denham Springs, Louisiana she put up a Christmas lights display that was sure to get everyone’s attention: her lights prominently showcased the image of a human hand with the middle finger extended. When the local police department threatened her the whole thing ended up in court. That case was settled with the ACLU winning $15,000 for attorney’s fees and an agreement that Childs can continue to “flip the bird” at her neighbors.
The display got plenty of attention when it first went up in November 2012. Neighbors called police to complain and Denham Springs Police Corporal Shawn Perkins paid her a visit.
Corporal Perkins told WWL Radio the homeowner told him she put the display as a direct message to her neighbors.
“It was a message to an ongoing dispute she was having with other homeowners on that same street,” Perkins said. Perkins says he informed Henderson that the display was in violation of obscenity laws and that it must come down, or else. She agreed that it wasn’t worth the possible hassle of fines and legal action,” Perkins said.
However, the ACLU of Louisiana soon waded into the fray after the story was broadcast in local and national media. The ACLU sent an open letter to the Denham Springs Police Department “to ensure that no such fines are levied or other penalties imposed if Childs chooses to reinstall her controversial holiday display.”
In that letter, the ACLU wrote: “The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal, which presides over Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, has specifically commented on the protected expressive nature of a middle finger extended in defiance or protest: â€œThe thumbed nose, the projected middle finger, the Bronx cheer, the grimace and the smile are all conduct intended to convey a message that is sometimes made even more expressive by its bold freedom from a garb of words.â€ Davis v. Williams.”
With victory at hand Childs has given no indication of whether or not she will repeat the display.