The Crucifixion of Santa: Free Speech or Public Nuisance?

Neighbors of Art Conrad are up in arms and demanding action after Conrad hoisted a crucified Santa over his house as a protest of the commercialization of Christmas. He also has a headless Santa singing carols on his front porch. The display in Washington state is likely protected speech despite the trauma to children and anger of neighbors.

Conrad appears to have a dark sense of humor and a deep dislike for the commercialization of the holiday. He insists that he is not anti-Christmas. Indeed, he send out Christmas card using a picture of the display with such messages as “Santa died for your MasterCard” and “Have a slightly demented Christmas.”

Ironically, the most common legal action around Christmas is directed at those who celebrate it too much — particularly with lights. If light displays cause increased traffic, the homeowner can be forced to shutdown the site or pay for police presence. Likewise, neighbors have been successful in some extreme cases in forcing moderation in the light displays.

This year in Boston a public official is trying to force a homeowner to carry such costs.

For the Boston story, click here

For another nuisance story out of Iowa, click here

For the picture and story of the Santa crucifixion, click here

5 thoughts on “The Crucifixion of Santa: Free Speech or Public Nuisance?”

  1. “likely” free speech? It is free speech. “Think of the children” is not even a factor.

    That said, its an interesting commentary. As retailers grow more desperate, the commercial reach of the Christmas giant extends ever further towards summer. Bravo to Art Conrad.

  2. There can be time, place, and manner restrictions, but not based on content. The most successful actions tend to focus on traffic etc. Profanity has also been used with success, though that also can be controversial.

  3. Question: what constitutes a public nuisance and who decides? Can speech (as the display obviously is) ever be a nuisance (excepting noise ordinances)?

  4. Let him have his appalling display. Given the modern media immersion of most children, I doubt any will be traumatized!

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