Here’s a tricky one. A woman in San Mateo, California has been covering her house and car in messages she believes she has received directly from God and has raised the ire of her neighbors as well as the city council as a result. She’s been ordered to remove her messages or else face daily fines until she does:
The San Mateo City Council unanimously ruled last week that Estrella Benavides’ garbled writings alleging vast government conspiracies violate city codes regulating the size of signs.
Benavides, 47, who also broadcasts the messages from a loudspeaker on the roof of her car, has said the messages come to her from God through a statue at her church and from the Bible.
She claims the city’s ruling violates her free speech rights.
“They’re telling me based on the San Mateo sign code that I’m violating the law,” Benavides said. “I’m telling them based on the U.S. Constitution that their sign code violates the law.”
There’s also a short news clip on the story.
The woman is obviously batshit crazy and the city must think so as well they’ve put her through a couple of mental evaluations and took her four year old son away from her. Now they’re suing her for violating the city’s sign ordinance. Here’s the thing that really amuses me about this story: I’m inclined to agree with her about her right to put whatever messages she wants on her house.
Batshit crazy or not, it’s her house and as long as it’s not falling down in disrepair I’m not sure why the city should have any compelling reason to interfere in her right to write whatever the hell she wants on the house. I sympathize with the neighbors that consider it an eyesore and a nuisance and I suppose it could impact property values in the area, but does that really trump her right to free speech?
It’s the sort of issue that I’m sure must give politicians nightmares and I’m not entirely sure how I’d go about trying to find a compromise, if one is even possible, if I were on the city council, but so long as she’s not hurting anyone else I say let her write whatever she wants on her house. If nothing else it’ll serve as a stark warning that a crazy person lives there.