Back in January 1994, a neighbor asked the city of York, Pennsylvania, to force Sybil Peachlum to remove her illuminated sign of a happy peach holding a newspaper with the headline, "Peachy News. Jesus is Alive." Peachlum pursued a permit for the sign, but the city rejected her request. She couldn't afford the $350 appeal fee, and the city again refused to waive it. She sued, but courts dismissed her claims.
In June, the tides began to turn. The 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals reinstated her lawsuit, even joining in on her penchant for puns. "Peachlum's claim," the court said, "is clearly ripe."
Friday, U.S. Middle District Court Judge Yvette Kane ruled in favor of Peachlum's sign, saying York's ordinance on signs "imposes discriminatory restrictions based on the signs' content." (As of this morning, the decision hasn't been posted on the court's web site, but is quoted in the York Daily Record and Associated Press.)
"God wins," Peachlum told the York Daily Record. "I've been harassed to the nth degree. I've faced multiple charges. This decision tells me I was right."
But wait a second. Yes, Peachlum won the case, but the newspaper says that Judge Kane ruled that York's sign ordinance did not violate or restrict Peachlum's freedom of religion, only her freedom of speech. That should temper some of the celebration. (But again, Weblog hasn't seen the full opinion, so Kane's logic may be sound.)
The other cloud to the silver lining: Peachlum didn't display the sign this year. She's apparently in financial distress, and lost her home in a foreclosure. ...1
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