Air Force veteran (and Florida man) Larry Murphree told the Washington Post that he lost his condo as a result of his battle with the Tides Condominiums at Sweetwater over Larry's practice of displaying a United States flag stuck into a flowerpot on his front porch.
Like many exclusive communities in the USA, the Tides had strict rules administered by the homeowners association. For those of us who choose the freedom to put their cars up on concrete blocks in the front yard, some background may be in order. In neighborhoods controlled by an HOA, homeowners sign a contract agreeing to abide by what are sometimes strict rules that cover things like what color you can paint your house, what your mailbox looks like, how many cars you can park in your driveway or what you can display in front of your house.
It wasn't a big flag
Our man Larry had placed a 17-inch flag in his flowerpot and one of his neighbors ratted him out to the HOA. He got a letter about the "unauthorized object" and was told that he'd be fined $100 a day if he didn't remove it.
"I lost it," Murphree said, describing how he felt after reading the letter. "It just dawned on me there’s people that strap on a gun every day to protect me and the people I love. It’s a small flag, but it stands for a big thank you."
However, there's another side to this
Larry sued the HOA and things got ugly. However, the Tides Condominiums claims they follow the The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, which prohibits HOAs and condo associations from denying residents their right to display. the flag. Residents can fly the flag on an approved pole, but they can't stick them in a flowerpot, hang them from the gutters or do anything else besides put them on a pole.
Anyone who wants to live in a community ruled by an HOA is making a choice to sign a contract that requires owners to follow a list of rules that many of us would find to be stupid or oppressive.
Experience suggests that many Americans who choose to live in these private communities are folks who believe in smaller government and want the Feds to back off.
Maybe Larry Murphree didn't read the agreement he signed when he bought his condo. Maybe the whole flowerpot thing gave him buyer's remorse. Rather than put his home on the market and move somewhere that was more in line with his values, he sued.
After a lot of back and forth and thousands of dollars, Murphree thought he won the right to keep his flag in a flowerpot after he settled with the HOA. But then the condo association changed its rules about how FLOWERS could be displayed and then Larry was back in violation. He says he got sick and didn't realize that the Tides was pulling fines from the bank account he used to autopay his association dues. He then didn't have the cash in the account to pay the dues and was forced to sell his home to avoid foreclosure.
A happy ending?
Larry met a woman, married her, moved into her place in St. Augustine and now proudly displays eight flags in front of the house, including one in a flowerpot.
What do you think? Should private groups be prevented from regulating ANY display of the United States flag? Or did Larry overreact, dig in his heels and fail to honor the contract he signed with his neighbors? Which America do you prefer, one with the freedom to use your property the way you see fit or one where folks band together and create rules that aim to give everyone a uniform and harmonious life?