Santa Claus and his eight tiny reindeer, led by the intrepid red-nosed Rudolph, weren’t the only things in the sky over the Christmas holiday.
Consider, if you will, one Sarah Childs of Denham Springs, La.
Since November, Childs has displayed bright Christmas lights on the roof of her home in the shape of a hand with the middle finger extended in an unmistakably profane way.
Was Childs trying to give the finger to little baby Jesus? No, she was not making any sort of religious or anti-religious statement.
But the people in the houses nearby took one look at the old third-finger salute and said, “There goes the neighborhood.”
They called the cops.
Childs asserts that the cops told her she was in violation of obscenity laws and would have to take the lights down or face fines and possible arrest. She took down the lights because she did not want to pay the penalty.
She contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which is supporting her on the grounds that her Flying “Forget You” Finger is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Together, they are suing the city and the police.
Marjorie Essman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, says she has examined the city code and has found no obscenity laws. Furthermore, if such laws did exist, they would be unconstitutional.
Attorneys for the City of Denham Springs and the police department say the Founding Fathers would flag the finger as a flagrant foul. They also deny that anyone threatened Childs.
Reportedly, Childs believes one of her neighbors stole her dog and she wanted to express her lack of Christmas cheer to them.
A federal judge granted Childs a preliminary injunction preventing legal action against her until the matter could be considered in court. So she put the finger back on the roof.
WAFB-TV quotes Todd Traylor, one of Childs’s neighbors, as saying, “Kids are going to look at those lights and wonder, ‘Mom, Dad, what is that? What does that mean?’ And how do you explain that to a four-year-old kid or a two-year-old kid who doesn’t know what that means and you try to shield them from stuff like that?”
Essman fires back, “If people find it distasteful or they don’t like it, well, that’s life. We’re all exposed to things we don’t like and people have different opinions. That’s what makes for a free society.”
What’s almost as funny as the controversy becoming a literal federal case is the variety of ways the media have covered the story. WWL Radio posts the glowing finger in all its glory on its web site. But the television stations and their web sites show a photo of the hand with the third finger suffering from a bad case of pixilated arthritis.
So if you were anywhere near Denham Springs, La., around Christmas or New Year’s, you did not see a star in the East and those three people en route to the light were not necessarily Wise Men.