Former councilwoman Francene Tearpock-Martini filed suit in federal court Wednesday against Shickshinny Borough, current council members Michael Steeber, Rosalie Whitebread and James Wido and former councilwoman Jule Moore.
Tearpock-Martini's claims include that she is being forced to support a particular religion, was denied the right to protest actions of the local government and has lost the full use of her property.
The suit alleges that in 2008 the pastor of a local church, who is not named in the suit, told Tearpock-Martini he ordered a sign for his church that he wanted to place on her South Main Street property. She told him she did not consent to having any signs on her property, which she says is on the National Historic Register.
Tearpock-Martini "made clear to the entire council" during a July 8, 2008, public meeting that she did not approve of putting a church sign on her property. However, at the Aug. 5, 2008 meeting, council, with the exception of Tearpock-Martini and former councilwoman Randi Feno, voted to approve installation of the sign.Obviously, if the facts of the case are what Tearpock-Martini claims, she will have an extraordinarily easy time in court. A city cannot force someone to support particular speech, especially religious speech, by installing signs on their property. It really baffles me in this day and age that a large segment of the population, not to mention government officials, still do not understand that point.
Imagine if it was not a church, but a mosque that installed the sign with government support. Xenophobic idiots like Pamela Geller and David Yerushalmi would be foaming at the mouth and spitting diatribes in the middle of rage seizures about how this demonstrates the "Islamification" or "Shariaization" (both of which aren't actual words) of America. And most people would agree, rightly, that a mosque has no right to force a member of the community to support the mosque by displaying a greeting sign.
After the sign was installed, Tearpock-Martini tried to reason with the church and government to take the sign off her property, but to no avail. She then tried to cover the sign up with her own that decried the town and church's violation of her rights:
In protest, Tearpock-Martini put up a sign of her own, stating that "This church sign violates my rights as a taxpayer & property owner. Residential neighborhoods are not zoned for advertisement signs." Borough officials sent her a letter threatening to charge her with a summary offense.
At one point the church sign fell. Tearpock-Martini took it to the pastor's home "and explained to him that she meant no disrespect to his church, but she did not want the sign on her property where it obstructed her view and diminished the value and enjoyment of that property and her home."
Apparently without the pastor's knowledge, Shickshinny officials reinstalled the sign with poured concrete so it would not fall or be easily removed.
Tearpock-Martini is seeking injunctions to have the sign removed and prevent placing or maintaining any other signs on the property, plus punitive damages and attorneys fees and costs.She is a much better person than I am. If it were my property, I'm pretty sure I would have covered it with this:
Freedom of Religion is a wonderful thing