Stars and strife

Owner-association clampdowns on U.S. flag-fliers go too far

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With all the things to fume about in today’s society, how much outrage should we allot for people whose display of the American flag violates their homeowner-association policy?

How severe a punishment do these rule-breakers deserve?

A stern letter of complaint? A stiff fine? A threat of foreclosure or eviction?

For 73-year-old Larry Murphree, the cost of the small U.S. flag sticking out of the flower pot at his Jacksonville, Fla., home is $8,000. His owner’s association at the Tides Condominium at Sweetwater has fined him $100 a day because the flag’s placement violates the rules.

Because the Vietnam vet refuses to pay, the association has attached a foreclosure lien to his home.

“The flag is worth fighting for,” Murphree told a Fox News affiliate. “If they want to foreclose, bring it on. I’m getting calls from all over the county to stand up. That’s what I’m going to do.”

The offensive flag in question is 17-by-12 inches – not much larger than a sheet of legal paper.

We would have thought nonsense of this sort would have been averted by the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005. It states clearly that residential associations 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.”

Unfortunately, those looking for an excuse to hassle can find it. Part of the act exempts “any display or use that is inconsistent with any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag.”

And that appears to be what the Tides’ association is doing. After an initial dispute with Murphree in 2011, it changed its rules to limit the display of flags to a pole outside the garage. Flower pots, the association says, are for flowers only.

That’s just too much hair-splitting.

The association said in a statement that it “agrees with Mr. Murphree about demonstrating patriotism by flying the American flag” and that it has “established rules that conform with U.S. code and Florida statutes regarding flag etiquette.”

Rules are rules, but we are troubled that Murphree’s flower pot flag is an affront worthy of an $8,000 fine and a mortgage lien. Isn’t that a bit like hunting butterflies with a bazooka?

Houston resident Duy Tran recently had a similar problem in his community. He made national headlines last month when management at the Lodge on El Dorado apartments told him to remove the American flag from his balcony, allegedly because Muslim neighbors felt threatened.

“I’m just standing my ground for the American people,” Tran told a Houston CBS affiliate.

The corporation that owns the apartments disputed Tran’s claim that he was asked to take down the flag because it threatened his neighbors’ religious sensitivities. CEO Jenifer Paneral said managers told him the flag was primarily a safety issue, she said.

“She did refer to other communities, other religious groups in that explanation, but it was just an example of the types of things that were hanging over the balcony,” she said. ”But at no time was there ever a statement that it was a threat to any community.”

Tran stands by his version of the story, but he’s since moved his flag off the railing. It now hangs over his porch, which satisfies the complex.

Since the controversy began, more of his neighbors at the complex are displaying U.S. flags in an apparent show of solidarity, and Tran said he’s been visited by many supporters.

“They came by and shook my hand and told me thank you,” he said.

Flying the American flag isn’t the problem – it’s the people who have a problem with people flying the American flag.

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carcraft
25030
Points
carcraft 07/05/14 - 04:28 am
9
1
People that don't want to see

People that don't want to see the flag,honor the flag or are offended need to find some where else to live where the US flag won't offend them! This gentleman but his life on the line and wrote a blank check to the US government that gave the government the right to ORDER HIM TO BATTLE any time, any place any reason! Now the morons are telling him he can't keep a flag in a flower pot?

hoptoad
4092
Points
hoptoad 07/05/14 - 07:07 am
8
1
HOAs

My HOA is a property management attorney in Evans. They sent me a letter advising me I would be fined for letting my garbage can set in front of my garage (they're supposed to be out of sight). I had just had surgery on my wrist and foot and couldn't haul it around back for several days.

Ordinarilly that would not have bothered me that they appeared to be looking out for the neighborhood. However, we unfortunately have many owners who throw trash on the roads, do not clean up after their dogs, have gates hanging off the hinges, unkempt yards, children vandalizing our common areas, non-residents breaking into our pool area, structures in backyards that are not in compliance with our by-laws, trash cans left by the road for days after pickup, and I could go on. When I reported these infractions to the HOA, I was told to just call the police.

Many of us are seeing our property value slide even further because of the poor management. But I doubt this HOA would have a problem imposing fines or foreclosing.

I, too, have a small flag in my front yard and would also fight to keep it there.

seenitB4
84100
Points
seenitB4 07/05/14 - 07:13 am
8
2
Bits & pieces

We are giving the USA away in bits & pieces...don't be surprised when it we don't have America anymore.

hoptoad
4092
Points
hoptoad 07/05/14 - 07:13 am
8
1
One of the reasons I moved to

One of the reasons I moved to a community that had an HOA was because I was under the false impression my neighborhood would be kept in good order, my property would hold its value, and that it would be more secure in an HOA community. I will not live in one again, it's foolish to pay a fee and feel like I live on the wrong side of the tracks.

deestafford
25342
Points
deestafford 07/05/14 - 07:18 am
10
0
On too many HOA boards sit people who...

On too many HOA boards sit people who have a little power for the first time in their lives and it goes to their heads.

I think most people sign the HOA agreement without even reading it thinking there is really nothing in it but common sense. Too bad common sense has become a rarity in too many places.

seenitB4
84100
Points
seenitB4 07/05/14 - 07:24 am
8
1
Our flag pole

Our old flag pole broke so we have one on the mailbox this weekend...small for it still gives a message...we will remove it after this weekend.

We have been inched to death by rules & regulations....most of them from Federal regulations.....it has gotten stifling & choking...is there any wonder that Americans are disgusted with our leaders.

curly123053
4489
Points
curly123053 07/05/14 - 07:34 am
8
1
No HOA For Me !

I could never be part of an HOA. My property rights mean more to me than some I guess. I keep my yard mowed and neat. Some of the petty things not allowed reminds me of living in a police state. You can have it.

myfather15
52780
Points
myfather15 07/05/14 - 08:11 am
5
0
Never been part of a HOA. So,

Never been part of a HOA. So, they can literally foreclose for no other reason than a simple rules violation? How can THEY foreclose, if your mortgage isn't through them? I realize you probably sign some agreement to be part of this (I have no idea why one would) but it's an agreement, doesn't SEEM that they would be allowed to ruin your life, by foreclosing because of a flag or trash can being left out!! That is absurd!! Like this article suggested, that would be like deer hunting with tomahawk missiles!!

myfather15
52780
Points
myfather15 07/05/14 - 08:13 am
4
0
Maybe not all HOA, but......

Many people who are "offended" by the American flag, are simply offended at what it represents. It represents freedom!! Freedom given to us by divine providence!! Therefore it represents God!! The God of Jesus Christ and THAT is exactly what offends people!! They can't stand Him, therefore they can't stand anything that even MIGHT represent Him!! They are going to be very sorry for this, one day.

dichotomy
31677
Points
dichotomy 07/05/14 - 09:19 am
8
1
"We have been inched to death

"We have been inched to death by rules & regulations"

The Dept. of HHS just dumped ANOTHER 1296 pages of Obamacare rules for doctors which include, by their own estimates, 5 1/2 MILLION additional hours of reporting for doctors seeing Medicare patients.

Elderly people.......don't count on doctors and hospitals taking your Medicare insurance much longer. They can't afford the loses.

The Democrats know that you don't have to push grandma off of the cliff to control Medicare costs.....you just have to make Medicare such a regulatory nightmare to the point where nobody accepts it.

dichotomy
31677
Points
dichotomy 07/05/14 - 09:31 am
7
1
Anyone who buys in a housing

Anyone who buys in a housing area with HOA forfeits their rights going in and agrees to conform to the collective. Why would they be surprised when the collective gets offended by what used to be the symbol of individual freedom and liberty? HOA's have always sounded a bit communist to me.

Why would I spend my money to buy property where I subject myself to rules made by a bunch of people I probably don't like anyway?

hoptoad
4092
Points
hoptoad 07/05/14 - 09:53 am
3
1
Myfather, yes they can

Myfather, yes they can foreclose on an infraction if it is not taken care of. An agreement is signed and I did read it and agreed with it, but it seems it only applies either to certain people or just whenever it's convenient to address the issue. A well run HOA community, such as Westlake, Jones Creek, can be a positive experience. However, I shall never again live in one.

deestafford
25342
Points
deestafford 07/05/14 - 10:41 am
5
1
HOA rules are drawn up by lawyers...

HAO rules are drawn up by lawyers so they can stand up in court. As a result they are not as clearly understood by the average person--if there is such a critter--as they should be.

Maybe there should be two sets: one drawn by a lawyer and the same one translated into everyday language by a neighborhood tenth grader.

jimmymac
35823
Points
jimmymac 07/05/14 - 11:15 am
1
0
HOA
Unpublished

I live in a development with an HOA. Ours doesn't restrict the flying of the flag. However it would seem that many people don't understand that the flag should come down before dark unless illuminated. Flying it wrong is just disrespectful to the flag.

KSL
124790
Points
KSL 07/05/14 - 11:25 am
4
1
Walter Schmidt
52
Points
Walter Schmidt 07/05/14 - 01:08 pm
3
1
flag and strife

If Muslims are offended by the display of our national flag, which represents their freedom to practice their religion freely, get out of my Country. Go back to driving camels in the desert, give up toilet paper and bathing, and have a happy unoffended life.

Walter Schmidt
52
Points
Walter Schmidt 07/05/14 - 01:08 pm
2
0
flag and strife

If Muslims are offended by the display of our national flag, which represents their freedom to practice their religion freely, get out of my Country. Go back to driving camels in the desert, give up toilet paper and bathing, and have a happy unoffended life.

Walter Schmidt
52
Points
Walter Schmidt 07/05/14 - 01:08 pm
2
0
flag and strife

If Muslims are offended by the display of our national flag, which represents their freedom to practice their religion freely, get out of my Country. Go back to driving camels in the desert, give up toilet paper and bathing, and have a happy unoffended life.

Walter Schmidt
52
Points
Walter Schmidt 07/05/14 - 01:08 pm
3
0
flag and strife

If Muslims are offended by the display of our national flag, which represents their freedom to practice their religion freely, get out of my Country. Go back to driving camels in the desert, give up toilet paper and bathing, and have a happy unoffended life.

myfather15
52780
Points
myfather15 07/05/14 - 02:02 pm
2
0
"Why would I spend my money

"Why would I spend my money to buy property where I subject myself to rules made by a bunch of people I probably don't like anyway?"

Absolutely!! End of the debate!! I'm not conforming to the standards of a bunch of egotistical jerks!!

harley_52
22812
Points
harley_52 07/05/14 - 05:45 pm
1
0
"I'm not conforming to the standards....

....of a bunch of egotistical jerks!!"

Hoo boy....I can think of at least half-a-dozen situations where that statement would be appropriate.

corgimom
30081
Points
corgimom 07/05/14 - 07:47 pm
0
1
The problem is that people

The problem is that people don't get their covenants until closing, and they don't bother to read them, and they just sign- and then complain.

It's their own fault for not reading the covenants before signing.

Anybody that signs a legally binding document without reading it first is foolish. They are focused on buying their new house and just sign everything that is put in front of them.

The biggest complaints about HOA's is that they selectively enforce covenants, like hoptoad says; but then when they strictly enforce every covenant, people complain about that too.

There is no way to win, so if you don't like HOA's, don't buy in a development that has them.

But if you don't, you run the risk of having a dump next door.

itsanotherday1
41366
Points
itsanotherday1 07/05/14 - 09:03 pm
0
0
I would be very surprised if

I would be very surprised if a HOA could "foreclose". What they CAN do is sue for compliance, then get a judgement for costs. At that point a lien can be placed on your property until you pay. If nothing else, you will cough up the money when you sell.

Personally, I favor HOA's; but Dee is correct. Very often you have little power hungry twerps populating them. I've served on boards before, and it is definitely a thankless task.

KSL
124790
Points
KSL 07/05/14 - 10:30 pm
1
1
There is a problem trying to

There is a problem trying to buy in a development now days that does not have an HOA. Counties and cities require so much green space set aside there needs to be a way to pay for maintenance.

itsanotherday1
41366
Points
itsanotherday1 07/06/14 - 08:39 am
0
0
I stand corrected

It is possible to foreclose with a lien; the "forecloser" has to assume the mortgage, if there is one.

shamrock
460
Points
shamrock 07/06/14 - 09:55 am
0
0
AMEN

This was a well-written, well thought out editorial. GOOD JOB!!

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