‘It’s a small flag, but it stands for a big thank you…’
(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) A retired Air Force veteran in Florida was forced to sell his home after refusing to pay a fine for displaying a U.S. flag on his porch, the Washington Post reported.
The man, Larry Murphree, was one of the first residents of the Tides Condominiums in Sweetwater, Florida.
A safe gated community for older adults, with plenty of amenities, the only problem was the “mind-numbing sameness” of the condos, which were so similar to each other that neighbors frequently drove up the wrong driveway.
Seeing this as not a bug, but a feature, the neighborhood cracked down on efforts to personalize the appearance of the homes, and the homeowners association was vigilant about looking for violations.
Some residents would get letters about inappropriate Christmas lights or flowers planted around mailboxes.
Things got worse when a new homeowners association board was elected, and in Murphree’s words, “they kept tightening the noose.”
That’s when Murphree received notice of an “unauthorized object” – the American flag – on his front porch, with demands from the homeowners association that he remove it.
If not, he would be fined $100 every day.
The flag was just 17 inches and placed in a flower pot.
But Murphree refused to comply with their demands. Instead, he got angry.
“I lost it,” he said, describing how he felt after getting 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.”
Thus, for seven years Murphree battled the homeowners association, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, just so he could express his thanks.
In response, the association appears to have targeted him, tagging him for not parking his car correctly in his driveway and for powering his Christmas lights in an incorrect manner.
Despite his valiant efforts, three years ago Murphree was forced to sell his home.
He now lives almost five hours north, in St. Augustine.
The bright spot? He still has one more day in court.
He’s suing the homeowners association for $1 million, contending that he had the right to display the flag under both Florida and U.S. laws.
His attorney, Gust Sarris, summed up the case this way: “Should any man who served in the military lose his home, a retirement home, because they want to be patriotic?”
Check out the article from the Washington Post here.