by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
August 22, 2004
Paxtang, PA (LifeNews.com) — A central Pennsylvania couple has won their bid to display a pro-life sign on their front porch.
Officials in the borough of Paxtang, near Harrisburg, had threatened Colman and Frances Wessel with jail time for mounting a sign to their porch railing. The sign, which featured a picture of Jesus, read, "This home supports the pro-life cause and is dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus."
But Councilman Frank Krautheim now says the sign can stay, prompting relief from the Wessels.
"Jesus was pro-life, and we are, too," Colman Wessel told the press. "Our sign links the sacred heart of Jesus with the pro-life movement. We’re leaving the sign up."
Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which has a pro-abortion position, supported the Wessels’ claim that the sign was protected under Constitutional guarantees for freedom of speech.
"It was never council’s intention to limit anyone’s free speech," Krautheim told the Patriot-News newspaper. "We understand free speech. We simply have an outdated ordinance."
Krautheim added, "Democracy worked. It’s Civics 101, and we won’t pursue it."
A code enforcement officer had told the Wessels their sign violated a borough ordinance because it did not promote a charity. He ordered the sign removed and said that if the Wessels did not comply, they would face a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.
The ordinance says signs are permitted "for public, religious and charitable institutions and uses such as parks, schools, churches and similar uses."
Under borough law, such signs may not be larger than 12 square feet. The Wessels’ sign measures less than seven square feet.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Paula Knudsen, told the newspaper she was happy that the borough of Paxtang recognized the Wessels’ right to free speech. Knudsen said it was even better that borough officials were considering redrafting borough law.