Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Woman Must Remove 'Messages From God'

A San Mateo woman who has covered her Cottage Grove Avenue home's roof and property with painted slogans she calls messages from God has been ordered to remove the signs or face possible fines or jail time.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."The council ruling orders Benavides to remove the signs or face fines of $50 a day starting late next month. If she refuses to take down the signs or pay, the city will have no choice but to sue her or file criminal charges, City Attorney Shawn Mason said.