The US Flag Is Litter?

An Alabama home owners association thinks so.  This is an image of the letter sent to residents of a condo unit (the unit is owned by one of the resident’s parents).

In case it’s hard to read in this post, the typed part of the letter reads

It has come to our attention that you have items in plain sight that are not to be visible from the parking lot by rules and guidelines stated in the home owners association bylaws.  Please remove the following listed item(s) as soon as possible to keep the community as tidy as possible.

The hand written part reads

Your flag attached to the stairs has to be removed ASAP!

When the recipients of this clean-up letter posted it on a number of veteran advocacy Facebook pages, the resulting uproar included a flood of communications to the home owners association president and condo property manager, Carol Coffey, objecting vociferously to the demand and to the implication that the American flag is just litter to be swept away.

In fact, such association bylaws that ban the US flag from public display on (condo owners’, for instance) private property are a violation of Federal law [emphasis in the original; a copy of the law can be seen here or here]:

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.

Coffey had this to say to justify her clean-up letter:

I served in Afghanistan, I served in Iraq, and I served in Kuwait.  I am not anti-veteran, and I am not a communist[.]


In order to maintain the integrity of that asset [the condominium complex], we have certain rules because people could put anything out here if we let them.

Because, she says, the association bylaws are in place to maintain property value, and naturally, the American flag is just any old thing, and it depresses property values.  Coffey also claimed that she realizes there are laws that protect the right to fly the American flag, but said those are for private property and this condo was not private property, because the condos are owned by a community of people—then she said that the “community of people” who own this particular condo consists of the parents of one of the residents, as noted above.

Coffey had this whine, also:

I think they are persecuting us without knowing all the facts.  And here’s one thing that really bothers me…this person got the letter from our management team and instead of coming to the board and expressing his concern, he went and posted something on two or three veteran’s sites without all the information and without us knowing anything about it, and now we’re being threatened—that’s not right.

That’s valid as far as it goes; she shouldn’t be getting threatened.  But.  In most (all?) other legal matters, a fundamental doctrine is that ignorance of the law is no excuse.  And she’s already said she knew the law; it wasn’t a matter of her not “knowing anything about it.”  She sent her clean-up letter anyway.

Since she already knew her letter was…invalid…it’s also hard to see what good spending time protesting to her about her letter would have done, especially since that time would have violated her ASAP demand.

The right answer is to stop “considering” waivers, but to correct her homeowners association bylaws so as both to not conflict with Federal law and separately to recognize that our flag, in its own right, is a proper item to display.

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