Homeowners Association Bans American Flags
A Georgia neighborhood’s homeowners association (HOA) is telling veterans that they cannot fly American flags outside of their homes. Any resident who flies the flag outside of 23 pre-approved days receives a “violation” from the HOA. Punishing expressions of American pride is offensive to all Americans, and especially to those who fought so that our flag can fly. Veterans living in The Village at Towne Lake feel disrespected. How could they not? The flag they fought under is being treated with no more respect than Halloween decorations.
First Amendment and the Flag
The First Amendment protects rights essential to life in America, including speech, religion, and press. Citizens’ actions regarding the American flag is a historically contentious issue. Ultimately, however, courts consider almost everything here protected speech.
The Supreme Court upheld citizens’ rights to desecrate the American flag in 1989 landmark case, Texas v. Johnson. Here, the court held that burning the flag is protected speech under the First Amendment. While many consider this act heinous, being the worst disrespect of the flag imaginable, it is legal. Also, the First Amendment protects other disrespects to the flag such as stepping on the flag, or displaying a tattered flag.
So, if the government protects such disrespect to our flag, it should protect proud displays of the flag as well. Fortunately, legislation says it does.
Freedom to Fly
In 2005, Congress passed the Freedom to Display the Flag Act. This law ensures that citizens like the veterans in Georgia are able to fly the United States flag. It goes beyond requiring that the government never infringe on citizens’ rights to fly the flag, and requires that the private groups behave the same.
The law applies to “cooperative associations,” or HOAs, to protect their “members,” or residents like the Georgia veterans. Section 3 states that “[a] condominium association…may not adopt or enforce any policy…that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association.” Per this, it is clear that the Village at Towne Lake HOA is in violation of this law.
Our government is committed to protecting citizens’ rights to fly the American flag at all times. Additionally, we as private citizens must do the same. Veterans especially deserve to take full pride in the country that they put their life on the line to serve. Undoubtedly, this includes keeping the Stars and Stripes in their hearts and outside of their homes.