Denham Springs woman repeats controversial holiday display
DENHAM SPRINGS — The brightest extended middle finger you’ll ever see is back — as long as Sarah Childs can keep the offensive light display from being torn down.
And this time, Childs plans on keeping two middle fingers up on her roof.
Childs, who garnered national attention a year ago for placing Christmas lights in the shape of a giant middle finger on the roof of her Starlite Drive home, this year decorated her house with the same pattern.
But this time, Childs said, someone cut the lights down from her roof.
Childs said she believes neighbors did the deed, though she has no proof it happened that way.
Only one neighbor approached Tuesday about the issue agreed to be interviewed. That neighbor, like many residents a year ago, said he was irritated by Childs’ display. Other neighbors declined comment.
Childs began fighting with neighbors over the display in November 2012 in what grew into a civil liberties battle between Childs and the city. Now it appears the fight has been reignited, at least between her and somebody who doesn’t like her holiday sentiment.
Childs, the former Sarah Henderson, moved into the home in 2007 but moved out within the last year or so after divorcing her husband. But she still considers the home “half my house” and stops by from time to time to check on it.
Childs put the lights up for the first time after Thanksgiving in 2012, following long-standing arguments with neighbors, one of whom Childs accused of stealing her dog.
Nearby residents expressed disgust at the bright middle finger and complained to police. Officers went to Childs’ house to ask her to take down the display.
Childs agreed to remove the finger, but she said a neighbor said something to her that irked her. So she decided to fight back.
The ACLU eventually got involved and sued the city, on Childs’ behalf, in federal court. A judge granted Childs’ request for a restraining order prohibiting Denham Springs officials from interfering with the lights.
The city fought back initially, arguing the display was not protected by the First Amendment because it amounted to “fighting words” aimed at a neighbor over the dog issue.
The court case was settled in January 2013, with city officials agreeing not to meddle with the display.
Childs said she kept the lights up until New Year’s Eve in 2012, when somebody tore them down.
She said recent personal issues have her frustrated, which led to her reinstalling the lights on Monday. She quickly received calls from angry neighbors.
Then someone came and hit the lights.
Childs found the lights and extension cords in the home’s front yard, cut into numerous pieces.
“They went on my roof, cut them all up, cut everything up,” Childs said.
But Childs was back at it Tuesday afternoon, scaling the roof of the home to replace the finger — and add another one.
“They did the firing shot,” she said. “It’s on.”
Childs said she mounted the display as a way to express her frustration and anger.
“Have they never been pissed off?” she said of her neighbors. “Have they never been screwed over?”
Childs said she doesn’t plan on calling police about this year’s incident after arguing with the department a year ago over the finger.
“The police department won’t help me,” she said. “They hate me.”
Denham Springs Police Chief Scott Jones said Tuesday he had not heard of the new fight over Childs’ lights.
Jones said the department would “deal with it when it happens” if officers are summoned to the house.
“I’m not going to make it a big deal,” Jones said. “It’s not a big deal to me. It’s a non-issue.”
Marjorie Esman, ACLU Louisiana executive director, said the courts have already determined that Childs has the constitutional right to place a giant middle finger on the home.
“That means they (police) have an obligation to protect her (Childs’) constitutional right to put this display up on her roof,” Esman said.
Denham Springs City Attorney Paeton Burkett said the city will comply with the settlement reached a year ago.
Burkett emphasized that city officials were not the ones responsible for taking Childs’ lights down Monday.
Todd Traylor, who lives several houses down from the home, expressed frustration at the crude display.
Traylor said Childs no longer lives at the house and is only trying to seek attention.
Traylor said he is not sure who ripped the lights off the roof; nevertheless, he said the display has agitated many neighbors.
“She doesn’t live there,” he said. “I don’t even know why she’s back.”