Everyone who lives in a community governed by a condominium or homeowners association understands that the associations have the ability to vote on and then enforce rules for the community. These rules can range from the types of cars that homeowners can have in their driveway to the maintenance of lawns and landscaping to how a unit owner can display Christmas lights.
A Jacksonville condominium association has made the news, appropriately on July 4th weekend, for telling unit owners how they can display the American flag. This particular homeowner, a U.S. Air Force veteran, has previously moved his Christmas lights into his garage and has moved his guests’ cars when the association complained, but he believes that this request to remove his 17-by-12-inch flag from a flower pot has gone too far. While homeowners in this community can display flags, they must be displayed in accordance with specific rules, to wit in flag brackets and hung so they are even with the home’s address plate.
This dispute is an interesting conflict between the association’s right to govern and the homeowner’s right to free speech. The association states that these rules are in accordance with federal and state statutes regarding flag etiquette and believes that its rules should be strictly enforced. As a result, the association is not willing to make any exceptions to its rules. The homeowner believes that this rule violates his right to free speech and the 2005 Freedom to Display the American Flag Act. The homeowner currently has $30,000 of fines related to this dispute.
It will be interesting to see how this dispute concludes.