Last updated: February 19. 2013 4:11PM - 815 Views

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SCRANTON – A Shickshinny woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the borough and council, alleging council wrongfully installed a sign for a borough church on her property.

The suit, filed Wednesday by attorney Barry Dyller, says Francene Tearpock-Martini has been battling the borough since 2008 regarding its placement of a sign for the Bible Baptist Church on her property at Main and Furnace streets.

According to the suit:

In June 2008, Tearpock-Martini learned the church was seeking to post a sign on her property. She notified the church she did not consent to the placement of the sign.

In August, borough council voted to approve the installation of the sign despite her objections. The sign, which states Bible Baptist Church Welcomes You, was erected on Aug. 18, 2008.

In protest, Tearpock-Martini installed a sign in front of the church's sign that said, in part, This church sign violates my rights as a taxpayer and property owner. The borough responded by sending Tearpock-Martini a letter that threatened to charge her with a summary offense.

At some point the church's sign fell down. The borough then reinstalled the church sign, using poured concrete, so that Tearpock-Martini could not easily remove it.

The suit names the borough and council members Jule Moore, Michael Steeber, Rosalie Whitebread and James Wido as defendants.

It claims the borough and council have violated Tearpock-Martini's civil rights by forcing her to support a religion and denying her the right to protest the actions of government. She seeks unspecified damages for each of five counts, including violation of her right to due process and freedom of speech.

Attorney Jeff Malak, solicitor for the borough, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Wednesday.

Terrie Morgan-Besecker is a Times Leader staff writer. Reach her at 970-7179

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