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Certification Board Tells Community Managers to Review Federal Flag Code

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Certification Board Tells Community Managers to Review Federal Flag Code

If there is one thing that can be said for homeowner’s associations across the country, it is this – they have a somewhat poor reputation when it comes to respecting constitutional rights.

It may be that the very role they play in these communities makes it difficult to honor the idea of “freedom,” since they must regularly deny many freedoms that community homeowners want to enjoy.

This year, as the Fourth of July holiday approaches and homeowners will be hanging out flags in droves, the NBC-CAM – the very organization that provides certification for Community Association Managers – issued a statement that advised HOA managers to carefully review the Federal Flag Code before issuing display rules in the community. The press release stated:

“HOA managers and residents should familiarize themselves with federal laws related to the display of the United States flag. The Flag Code includes useful instruction and rules on how and when to display the flag.”

While the press release uses language implying that the Flag Code should be used as a set of guidelines on how to control the display of the U.S. flag with “instruction and rules” – the press release failed to advise HOA managers to also familiarize themselves with the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 – which actually includes a set of rights that homeowners enjoy, and which no HOA can infringe upon.

Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005

The 2005 Act effort was actually prompted by the number of issues that came up prior to 2005 in communities where HOA managers overstepped their bounds and attempted to deny the rights of citizens – even veterans – to display the American flag.

Those cases didn’t end the day the Act was passed – many Association managers had to learn the hard way. One case in point was the story of Colonel Van T. Barfoot, a WWII veteran that fought for and won right right to maintain the very large flagpole and flag that he had mounted on his property.

The HOA threatened a lawsuit against Barfoot. Once the story hit the media, law firms, veterans organizations and even a Senator came to Barfoot’s aid. The HOA eventually lost the fight, and Barfoot – not for the first time in his life – won the battle to raise the American flag.

HOA Confuses Gadsden Flag for Tea Party Flag

Another example came earlier, in 2010, when a Colorado HOA tried to stop homeowner Eric Smith from flying a Gadsden flag – a well known flag among U.S. Marines with the logo “Don’t Tread on Me” along the bottom.

The Homeowner’s Association told him he could not fly the flag because, “Tea Party flags are not permitted. Please Remove.” The HOA threatened to fine him $100 a day as long as the flag remained.

The flag is actually a historic one – it was flown by the Continental Marines and was carried into battle by the Marine Corps during the American Revolution. Many veterans still hold great pride in displaying it.

The idea that a HOA would feel it is in its right to mandate what ideals and symbolism is displayed by homeowners is a scary thought, and further legal battles could be costly for HOA and the entire industry.

This may very well be why the NBC-CAM took time before the upcoming holiday to remind HOA managers to review the law – because while preventing the display of flags “for the good of the community” may seem okay on the surface, controlling ideas and the free expression of those ideas is always dangerous ground to tread upon, especially in the United States of America.

Originally published on

  • Surreptitious Evil

    Except that, unlike most recent Acts, the ‘Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005’ says very little indeed. And one of the few things is does say is that it doesn’t over-ride Chapter 1, Title 4 of the US Code. Commonly known as the “Federal Flag Code”.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. One thing that does make it different is that while the Federal Flag Code provides rules and guidelines on how to display the flag, how to respect it, etc….the Act has an entirely different intent. That is – not to explain how to display or treat the flag, but to allow the display of the flag (if following the flag code) as a right that can not be infringed upon.

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