Larry Murphree, a 73-year-old veteran, keeps a small american flag in the flower pot near his front door. First Coast News reports Murphree’s home is in the Tides Condominium at Sweetwater in Jacksonville, Florida. The condo’s owners association has specific rules on when and where someone is allowed to fly an American flag, even if you are a Vietnam War veteran such as Murphree. The rules allow flags to be flown in certain locations, during daylight hours.
Murphree has fought the HOA previously on American flag-related issues and the case was settled so he thought,”it was over.” However, Murphree was recently fined $8,000 and had his condo foreclosed on because of his failure to pay the fine. The reason for the fine? Murphree had placed a small American flag in a planter outside his front door. The COA rules state that the content of planters are limited to foliage and flowers, but Murphree thinks the rules were created just for him.
In the lawsuit that Murphree filed, it is noted that in his complaint that restrictions were made after a run in with the COA. Murphree describes the history of discord and conflict with defendants regarding his display of the American flag, including a previous lawsuit which he filed and later voluntarily dismissed after reaching a settlement. As part of that settlement, Murphree agreed to display the American flag in compliance with association documents.” On April 24, 2012, less than two weeks after Murphree dismissed his flag lawsuit, the Tides Board of Directors approved new Design Guidelines for Flags and Amended Design Guidelines for Potted Plants.
NewsMax notes that many lawmakers are on Murphree’s side. Representative Gus Bilirakis, vice chairman of the House of Veterans Affairs Committee, asked:
“When did we relinquish our common sense as citizens in this country? It is absurd that a veteran who wants to display his love of country is being punished. It is even more preposterous that he could lose his home. The homeowners association should do the right thing and waive the fees and let Mr. Murphree exercise his First Amendment rights.”
Representative Ander Crenshaw, who represents the district in which Murphree lives, is also on Murphree’s side. He went so far as to call Murphree a “true patriot.”
“Larry Murphree’s dedication to country in the Vietnam War and his fight to fly the American flag today is the story of a true patriot, and I commend him.”
Murphree is not backing down, he told Fox News, without a fight though. He says:
“The flag is worth fighting for.If they want to foreclose, bring it on. I’m getting calls from all over the country to stand up. That’s what I’m going to do. It’s a small flag, but it stands for a big thank you and it shows the love and respect I have for my country.”
In June, 2013, Murphree filed his seven-count lawsuit against his COA in federal court, but in March 2014 that lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice. He now would need to file his lawsuit in state court. In the meantime, each day he keeps the flag in the pot- which he still does to this day- he is fined $100. Murphree said he’s now being billed $8,000 in violation and attorney fees and they have began the foreclosure process on his home due to delinquent paying of the fines. The COA confirmed the foreclosure to Fox News, stating that if Murphree does not pay the fines, they will foreclose.
What do you think? Should this veteran be fined over displaying an American flag, or should that be protected under his First Amendment Rights?
[Image Credit: Fox News]