Two separate stories coming from Colorado highlight an apparent free speech issue within the state. Samuel Adams can’t hang an American flag from his balcony for the 4th of July, while Pastor Lawson Perdue can no longer run ‘Jesus-based’ ads on city benches promoting his church.
Samuel Adams of Greeley had draped an American flag over his balcony in preparation for the upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend. Administrators at Adams apartment complex, Sterling Heights, told Adams to remove the flag, according to a Monday story from Fox News.
“I have never done anything like this before, but it was the right time and it was the right moment,” Adams told The Greeley Tribune. “I wanted to be a patriotic American and give tribute to our Founding Fathers and our veterans, and to have (management) say the flag is inappropriate or comparable to trash is reprehensible to me.”
Pamela Buchanan, the Sterling Heights apartment manager, told The Greeley Tribune that the apartment community is not opposed to people flying an American flag but that they do have rules about ‘clutter’ on resident balconies.
“Sterling Heights seeks to be fair to residents by limiting displays as there could be signs, flags or decorations that may be offensive and disruptive to the community,” Buchanan wrote in an email to The Greeley Tribune.
In response to this, Amie Robertshaw, senior regional manager for Sterling Heights, said Adams would be allowed to drape his flag over the balcony just for the holiday, but that it would need to come down after the holiday is over.
Adams has posted a video on YouTube expressing his disgust, the video has more than 20,000 views.
Perdue has been running ads on bus benches that read “Jesus Is Lord” — or some variant of that — for the past three years, but Mountain Metro Transit Agency told Perdue that he could no longer use ‘Jesus’ in his ads because the city says “hate messages would have to be allowed, too,” According to a Fox News article on Monday.
The Gazette ran a story on Monday that says the city is now reviewing its decision as well as its policy. “The City of Colorado Springs is carefully reviewing the advertising policies of Mountain Metro Transit in light of the advertising by Pastor Lawson Perdue of the Charis Christian Center.”
The city also notes that they may have acted hastily, “Mountain Metro Transit recognizes that it acted hastily in asking Pastor Perdue to change his messaging.”
Perdue said that he “planned to renew his contract with Jesus in future advertisements.”
“When government restricts speech it is subject to ‘strict scrutiny’ and the government needs to provide a compelling interest to limit language,” Civil rights attorney Barbara Queen of Lawrence and Associates told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Queen went on to say that, “Most content-based regulations do not pass the [strict scrutiny] test.”
Queen also said that the city could “restrict the size of the ad, or even the color, but not content.”
As for Adams and his flag, Queen pointed The Daily Caller to an act signed in 2005 by George W. Bush. Under the 2005 ‘Freedom to Display the American Flag Act‘ (FDAFA) a “residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent an association member from displaying the U.S. flag on residential property.”
Queen noted that First Amendment protections to free speech are only invoked when government is the one making the demand not an apartment complex, as is the case with Adams. However, under the FDAFA Queen doesn’t think Sterling Heights had any right to tell Adams to remove his flag.
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