Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lose Your Home For Flying The American Flag?

Desecrating the American Flag in America is a legitimate means of political protest, protected under the First Amendment, stated a Supreme Court Ruling in 1989. Veterans flying the flag, on the other hand, have been threatened with losing their homes.

In 1999, a United States Marine Veteran ran afoul of the Indian Creek Phase III-B Homeowners Association, in Jupiter, Florida. George Andres, a Patriotic former Marine waged a 4-year battle with the Homeowners Association over the association’s decision that the flagpole he erected on his front lawn did not meet restrictions on residents.

The Homeowners Association initiated foreclosure proceedings on Andres home when he refused to remove the flagpole the American Flag was flying from. The courts sided with the association.

The Florida legislature passed a retroactive law protecting the display of the American Flag “in a respectful manner, as long as it is removable,” which then Governor Jeb Bush signed in to law, but it was initiated after the association won their lien on Andres’s property. A 2003 court ruling stopped the foreclosure and sent the association and Andres to Arbitration.

Andres won the arbitration and was allowed to leave the flagpole and American Flag flying from his property. Undeterred, the association filed yet another foreclosure lawsuit to cover their legal fees, which they lost.

In July 2005, the US Legislature passed and President Bush signed in to law the “Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005.” The law states,

“A condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.”

Thinking this may be the end of confrontations between Homeowners and Homeowners Associations proves false, as Clermont, Florida resident and U.S. Navy Veteran Jimmie Watkins is currently discovering. Watkins has been sent a final notice from the Sussex homeowners' association in Clermont that he must remove the flag or face legal action.

Section 4 of the “Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005” states under Limitations,
“Nothing in this Act shall be considered to permit any display or use that is inconsistent with -- (2) any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association.”

In other words, the act gives one the right to display the American Flag, but grants the Homeowners Association the right to determine “the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag,” effectively stripping homeowners of the very right the act grants them.

Another homeowner in Avery Park, Georgia became at odds in 2006 with a Homeowners Association. Roy Johnson, son of a Viet Nam Veteran decided to challenge his Homeowners Association over restrictions they placed upon display of the flag.

This case was settled with Johnson being allowed to keep his flagpole, but with several strict restrictions and guidelines.

Associations claim the issue isn’t the display of the flag, but displaying it on flagpoles, citing they decrease property values. They prefer flying flags from angled posts in brackets that can be taken down. However, in the case of George Andres, flying his flag in such a manner would leave the flag brushing against the bushes in his yard.

In each of these cases listed, surrounding subdivisions all have flagpoles. Other residents are not filing complaints, just members of the various Homeowners Associations, who claim it isn’t about the flag. Each H.A. chimes in with words of these Patriots “must follow the rules.”

I, for one, find it very disturbing that in 1989, the United States Supreme Court ruled it a protected right to desecrate our flag, but Veterans and Patriots that desire to fly our National Flag must face years and thousands of dollars of litigation to retain the right to honor the American Flag.

Something is terribly wrong in our country that we have allowed ourselves to be lulled into sleep while such a backwards state has festered.

What other country denies citizens the right to honor their flag yet legalizes desecration of it?

Beam me up, Scotty.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree completely; however I don't accept the idea of others that when you go into a HOA you step outside the United States. I'm in a pitched battle with my HOA right now over a "resolution" which says:

"At all times unit owners must be respectful and courteous to managment and board personnel. No abusive, insulting or disrespectul language will be tolerated. Violations of this resolution may result in a fine"

Unbelievable? Yes -- but true. This video might be of interest