True Believer™ covers house in messages from God, facing fines from city.

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.

16 thoughts on “True Believer™ covers house in messages from God, facing fines from city.

  1. but so long as she’s not hurting anyone else I say let her write whatever she wants on her house.

    I think it depends on how much of a disturbance to others these things are, or how much it affects other people through things like house prices, though a lot of this depends on how intollerant and vocal the neighbors are, it’s unfair that particularly vocal asshats can be given so much influence, but I can’t think of many better systems.

    The below, to me, indicates that the woman was going a little out of line in being unfairly intrusive to begin with (not that that suggests anything about how fair the other people were):

    Benavides, 47, who also broadcasts the messages from a loudspeaker on the roof of her car,

  2. Her loudspeaker from the car needs to stop.  But the only good system that works is civil liberties, specifically the right to free speech.  If she wants to put bat shit crazy writings all over her house and car let her.

    My only caveat is if her signs on the house make the property values decrease, she should have to pay for them.  It is not fair for others to punished for her fucking signs.

  3. My only caveat is if her signs on the house make the property values decrease, she should have to pay for them.

    No.  Part of the social contract of our constitutional society is that we just live with the cost of others’ freedoms.  It is the only guarantee of our own freedoms.

    Nothing in the constitution says; “If the exercise of these rights inconveniences other people in any way, the person exercising the rights shall have to compensate the ones inconvenienced.”  Else no boycott could ever be supported, no picketer could ever stand where he was visible from someone’s business, and so on.

  4. What I meant was through civil suit…  Her neighbors should be able to take action for compensation for her actions and crazy lady should have to pay for it.  Since the decrease in property values of houses near her would most certainly be due to her actions.

  5. Over here in Grand Haven, there was an old guy on one of the main streets who did the same thing with his house, except more along the lines of crazy political ravings. The city tried to get him to paint his house for years; ultimately they failed. He died a few years ago, and the house is no longer a diatribe against everything…

    did

  6. Everyone’s been talking about this woman. I’ve seen the house, and it’s truly grotesque. We’re obviously dealing with someone who’s not playing with a full deck. And while I agree that she should have the right to fuck up her own house, the loudspeakers really seem to cross the line into public disturbance. I don’t want to have to hear that lunacy when I’m out on my bike.  tongue rolleye

  7. Here in Normal, Illinois, there’s a guy who has a sign in front of his house that says something like “Hate is not a family value”.  It’s about three feet by five feet.  It’s on a main drag and his neighbors took him to court, the town tried to make him take it down, it dragged on for years.  Finally he won in court but the sign was constantly vandalized.  So he built progressively sturdier signs until this one has dual support posts and polycarbonate covers with protective aluminum border.

    When he first put the sign up, it read; “US out of El Salvador” which tells you how long this has been going on.

    Totally agree about the speakers, though.  That is trespass.

  8. This reminds of the uproar over the couple who moved into a neighborhood of neat rows of white houses.  The couple painted their house in very bright aqua and pink with yellow trim; there was a horrible uproar, but in the end it was determined in court that the couple were well within their rights to paint their house as they saw fit.  There was no HOA and there were no covenants that regulated paint colors.

  9. 1) I believe she has the right to do what she wants with her property, though the loudspeaker thing crosses the line if there are noise ordinances in her community.
    2) If the city and/or neighbors don’t like looking at her house, they could put a big wall around it on the property line.  Maybe in a nice, soothing green.  If she tried painting her message on that, she could be charged with vandalism.

  10. Here in Arkansas many landowners has signs in their yards. A popular one seems to be the ten commandments. Many have bible verses and such. As far as I know, the landowners are left alone. IMO, if its on their land they can write whatever BS they want to. I think I would have to put a stop to the loudspeaker though.

  11. Bonkers or not, this is really a class dispute.  Can any of us say that what McDonald’s is doing isn’t crazy?  I mean, they have the money to have a clown tell me to eat slaughtered mammals, and no one is asking them to take their signs down.
     
    What about TV in a restaurant?  I hate TV because I feel they are polluting my head with information that hurts more than does good, but that is just fine by everyone.

    We’re ok with what we have trained to be ok with, all else is not allowed I guess…

  12. McDonalds is probably given special treatment because it’s a business – the council would be less inclined to want to do anything that might risk a loss of an employer+economic contributer.

    Also, you’re right, it’s people’s perspectives that slaughtering animals is more acceptable than scribbling on property, and these people vote.

    You can conclude that there are 2 limiting powers in politics that need to be balanced:
    Money vs Votes
    What’s really right and wrong doesn’t come into it, it’s just what the voters view as right/wrong, and this can be trained (possibly the media is the source of some illogical prejudices – voters don’t need to know the real situation, they just need to be told something enough times to subconciously become more predispositioned to believe it)

  13. James: “Can any of us say that what McDonald’s is doing isn’t crazy? I mean, they have the money to have a clown tell me to eat slaughtered mammals, and no one is asking them to take their signs down.”

    LOL Good one.

    I sometimes mow (or rather, not-mow) geometric patterns into my lawn.  Makes me smile which I can really use when mowing the lawn.

  14. She’d definitely be affecting property prices and the general ambience of the area.
    I’m surprised no one’s shot her.
    Why doesn’t somebody anonymously accuse her of being a terrist [sic].
    I mean if shrub can get away with telling similar lies to justify a ‘pre-emptive strike’ (I just luv that concept) isn’t it justified and therefore universally acceptable (it’s always fun to speculate smile  )?
    Anyway, they’d ship her straight off to women’s Gitmo and hold her indefinitely, legally, for a few years … like, it’s not as if she’s the full quid, is it?
    The council could send her a letter to respond in 14 days or such and such would happen.
    She wouldn’t be there to respond …
    Maybe they don’t hate her enough yet.

    I suppose all the neighbours are waiting for The Delusion to do something.  LOL

  15. James asks…

    Can any of us say that what McDonald’s is doing isn’t crazy?  I mean, they have the money to have a clown tell me to eat slaughtered mammals, and no one is asking them to take their signs down.

    That’s because slaughtered animals is damned tasty. grin

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