Wisconsin Veteran Ordered to Take Down Flag

Fox News is making a national case out of Charlie Price being told by his apartment management that he can’t fly an American flag in his window.

An Army veteran in Wisconsin will be allowed to display an American flag until Memorial Day, but the symbol honoring his service in Iraq and Kosovo must come down next Tuesday, his wife told FoxNews.com.

Dawn Price, 27, of Oshkosh, Wis., said she received a call from officials at Midwest Realty Management early Wednesday indicating that she and her husband, Charlie, would be allowed to continue flying the American flag they’ve had in their window for months through the holiday weekend. The couple had previously been told they had to remove the flag by Saturday or face eviction due to a company policy that bans the display of flags, banners and political or religious materials.

[…]

Dawn Price said she now works to amend the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which states no “condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association” may stop someone from flying the American flag. The law, however, does not apply to renters.

“This has been eating at us since Friday,” she said. ‘The best way to fight this isn’t getting an eviction and going after these people in court. That’s just going to cost us a lot of time, energy and money.” Instead, Dawn Price said she either intends to place a curtain between the flag and the apartment window to block it from onlookers or will move it to a rear balcony come next week. “We don’t want to fight the eviction,” she said. “We know we’d lose.”

Officials at Midwest Realty Management, which manages Brookside Apartments, where the Prices live, did not return several messages seeking comment. In a statement to the Oshkosh Northwestern, company officials said the policy was established to provide a consistent living environment for all residents. “This policy was developed to insure that we are fair to everyone as we have many residents from diverse backgrounds,” the statement read. “By having a blanket policy of neutrality we have found that we are less likely to offend anyone and the aesthetic qualities of our apartment communities are maintained.”

Despite the brief reprieve, Dawn Price said her husband is disappointed by the flag flap. “He actually sees it as a slap in the face to his service,” she said. “He’s pretty upset about it, especially right around Memorial Day.”

Not surprisingly, people are rallying around Price and condemning the apartment managers.

Weasel Zippers calls them “A-holes” and comments, “This is just plain wrong.”    At Jawa Report, Comrade Vinnieovich, Political Officer (sigh) calls them “a bunch of Marxist f-ing d-bags.”

But here’s the thing.  The American flag is indeed a venerated symbol by most everyone in this country and, indeed, many around the world.  But, if Midwest Reality allowed the display of giant flags in people’s windows, they’d have to allow pretty much any other form of expression.   Rather than deal with the possibility of controversy, then, they have issued a blanket policy.

Don’t like it?  Don’t rent there.

Further, it’s hard to see how Price is being harmed here.  He can fly the flag anywhere he wants in his apartment except right by the window.   So, if this is about his love of country, it’s no problem.  If it’s about the ability to make a political statement . . .

FILED UNDER: US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    At Jawa Report, Comrade Vinnieovich, Political Officer (sigh) calls them “a bunch of Marxist f-ing d-bags.”

    Nein, nein, nein! They’re a bunch of Nazi f-ing d-bags.

  2. Tim says:

    Yeah, that would be like…America, where people of all sorts are “allowed” to make political statements. He doesn’t NEED to express his pride in his country, or even make a political statement and you know, renters..phew, what a bunch of non-citizens anyway, right? I mean, it’s not like this apartment building and the right to own and run it comes from nation for which it stands, the American flag is just some bumper sticker that might offend someone, so lousy, second class RENTERS shouldn’t be able to fly it, not in a place like an apartment building. It just isn’t necessary. But, maybe…uh…there is freedom? Ahhhh, what a bunch of hooey.

  3. James Joyner says:

    renters..phew, what a bunch of non-citizens anyway, right?

    Renters face all manner of restrictions from management, which generally seeks to provide a very uniform look to the places from outside. When I rented, it was common to specify, say, what color of blinds or curtains could be used (usually, white). That’s a fact of living in someone else’s space.

    Furthermore, I live in a pretty expensive single family home in a reasonably affluent neighborhood. We have a home owner’s association that dictates, say, what kind of mailbox we can have, what colors we can use to paint the trim, what materials the fence must be made of, and so forth.

  4. We have a home owner’s association that dictates, say, what kind of mailbox we can have, what colors we can use to paint the trim, what materials the fence must be made of, and so forth.

    Exactly.

    It’s a matter of property rights (or, in the case of an HOA, contract rights), not free speech. We’ve seen this issue before and it led to the unfortunate Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which makes it a Federal crime for HOAs to bar residents from flying the flag.

    Where exactly Congress gets the authority to dictate what an HOA in Northern Virginia does is, of course, an entirely different question.

  5. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    But, if Midwest Reality allowed the display of giant flags in people’s windows, they’d have to allow pretty much any other form of expression.

    No they wouldn’t.

  6. Brian Knapp says:

    We don’t want property owners to be able to dictate what goes on in their space…except not let blacks in, that should still be their choice.

  7. No they wouldn’t.

    Shouldn’t the property owner be allowed to make that choice ?

    If people don’t like the policy, they don’t have to rent there. And, if Midwest Realty discovers that they’re losing potential renters because of the policy, they might change their policy. That’s exactly what happened last year in a similar case in Oregon.

  8. Brian,

    The difference being, of course, that there was not a century long history of discrimination against flag wavers as their was against blacks at the time the1964 act was passed.

  9. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Shouldn’t the property owner be allowed to make that choice ?

    Exactly my point, thank you! The property owner should be allowed to make the choice and they could choose to allow the display of flags without, by virtue of allowing the display of the flag, being required to allow other forms of expression.

  10. sam says:

    Speaking of Nazis:

    We have a home owner’s association that dictates, say, what kind of mailbox we can have, what colors we can use to paint the trim, what materials the fence must be made of, and so forth.

    Just kidding about the Nazi thing (well, sorta). For those folks who think the big, bad gummint is the acme of oppression, I suggest they look into the powers of homeowners associations. I told the realtor when we were looking for our current house that under no circumstances would I buy a home in a neighborhood controlled by an HOA. You’d be shocked at what an HOA can force a homeowner to do:

    Unlike a municipal government, homeowner association governance is not subject to the constitutional constraints that public government must abide by. [Source]

  11. Sam,

    The difference, of course, is that HOA’s are completely private institutions. You aren’t required to be a member of one unless you buy property in a community governed by one. Additionally, while I don’t know what the law is in other states, here in Virginia when you purchase a home governed by an HOA the law requires that the seller give you a copy of the governing documents to review and you have ten days to withdraw, without penalty, from the contract if you don’t like them.

  12. Brian Knapp says:

    The difference being, of course, that there was not a century long history of discrimination against flag wavers as their was against blacks at the time the1964 act was passed.

    Yes, well, that’s true. I was merely pointing out the inconsistent application of ideology. I thought it was a good opportunity to demonstrate how difficult that consistency is and that policy/law therefore requires a good deal of nuance and complication sometimes to get things right. Newtonian physics is good enough to get satellites to Saturn, but it begins to break down in more extreme circumstances (hell, so do modern theories).

    For me, at least in the state of Kansas, I often agree that landlords, HOA’s, and the like have too much power. But this seems to be a non-issue. I don’t see a good case for the renter here.

  13. sam says:

    Yeah, Doug, I get the private and voluntary part. My point was that when it comes the intimate application of power, few entities can compete with an HOA, private and voluntary notwithstanding.

  14. Herb says:

    Ah, the inviolability of property rights. Own an apartment complex…you can tell people how to decorate. Own a flag, on the other hand, better ask your landlord where you can hang it.

    Some property rights are more equal than other property rights.

  15. James Joyner says:

    Ah, the inviolability of property rights. Own an apartment complex…you can tell people how to decorate. Own a flag, on the other hand, better ask your landlord where you can hang it.

    Is this an argument? You don’t think the rights of people who own the property trump those of renters in some instances? That owners can’t set rules by which renters may live?

    Almost by definition, property rights inhere in the ownership of property. Rental, almost by definition, confers limited rights of usage of someone else’s property.

  16. Juneau: says:

    It’s the American flag. From the picture, it’s not too big, too worn-out, or too anything to be against someone’s rules for displaying it in a window. The folks that object to it should be shamed into relenting, go back to their holes, and shut up.

  17. Herb says:

    Is this an argument? You don’t think the rights of people who own the property trump those of renters in some instances? That owners can’t set rules by which renters may live?

    More of a flip comment than an argument. Of course I think property owners can set rules for renters.

    But there should be limits. No loud music, no meth labs in the bathroom, no dogs on the carpet. All perfectly defensible with the property rights defense.

    But “Don’t hang a flag in the window?” It’s a bit of a stretch. Sure, it may be within the rights of a property owner. But it’s also the hallmark of a petty tyrant.

  18. Nathan says:

    I think you are spot on James. The folks who say government has no right to manage people’s private property always seem to change their tune when it disagrees with them personally. I appreciate the consistency in your ideology.