Town Finds 'God Bless America' Signs in Violation, Threatens Fines

How far is too far when it comes to patriotic displays? Residents of a central Florida town who have posted "God Bless America" signs on their front lawns for months are now facing fines if they don't remove them. The temporary lawn signs that were distributed by a local church around the Fourth of July have been determined by City of Bartow Code Enforcement to be in violation of a local ordinance. If not removed soon, the city warns, those displaying them could be fined $25 per day.

As described in the above video, some residents are baffled by the rule and are resisting. But the city says that the ordinance is not aimed at any particular sentiment, and allows for exceptions.

god bless america sign ban bartow
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"They can have those signs out on holidays that are relevant," Bartow Code Enforcement Director Gregg Lamb told Tampa Bay's WTVT this week. You can have a temporary sign around Christmas if it's related to Christmas. Or the Fourth of July. The sign ordinance has exceptions for that."

Some Bartow residents don't see patriotism -- or lawn signs that celebrate it -- as seasonal, though. And the TV station reports that a group of them will seek a waiver from the ordinance at the next Bartow City Commission meeting. And while AOL Real Estate has carried several stories of similar conflicts, those have usually involved homeowner or condo associations, not cities -- such as the case of Army Sgt. Brandon Weir, who ran into trouble at his Huntsville, Ala., condominium complex earlier this year because he flew the U.S. flag in front of his home there. And in a similar case, Meagan Schmidt of Katy, Texas, battled her HOA over a sign in her yard that advertised her church, which the association saw as violating a rule against commercial signage.

Why would a city want to ban all lawn signs to begin with, and challenge free expression on private property? Might there be a clue in some of the yard signs and other displays in the slideshow below?


More stories about codes and rules for homeowners:
County Housing Code Pushing College Students Out of Shared Home
HOA Horrors and How Not to Fall Victim to Them
Gay-Bias Ban Helping Revive 'Dead Town' of Vicco, Ky.

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