What would you be willing to lose for the American flag?
Seven years ago, Larry Murphree was excited to move into the brand-new home that he bought in the Tides Condominiums retirement community in Sweetwater, Florida. Life was great for a while. He liked the gated community, the pools and tennis courts, the large clubhouse. There was one slight problem – all the condos looked so similar that neighbors often pulled into the wrong driveway. So, some residents tried to distinguish their yard or condo with flowers. Murphree, a U.S. Air Force veteran, placed a 17-inch American flag in a flower pot on his front porch. A tasteful way to distinguish his condo – or so he thought.
One day he opened a letter from the Tides Condominium Association, informing him that he must remove the "unauthorized object" from his front porch. Failure to remove the U.S. flag would result in a $100 fine… per day. Apparently, the community's bylaws allowed flags to be flown from poles, but not to be placed in flower pots.
Murphree was not happy. He says, "It just dawned on me there's people that strap on a gun every day to protect me and the people I love. It's a small flag, but it stands for a big thank you."
You can probably guess what happened next. Murphree left the flag on his front porch and the fines began accruing. Murphree ignored the fines. Unbeknownst to him, the HOA used his HOA dues to cover the flag fines, which caused him to fall way behind on his dues.
Though he no longer lives in Sweetwater, he's still battling the HOA in court.
He fought the HOA in court, but between legal fees, the HOA fines, and dealing with a difficult neck surgery, he faced foreclosure on his retirement home. In 2015, he finally sold the house at a loss.
Though he no longer lives in Sweetwater, he's still battling the HOA in court. He's been granted a new trial date where he hopes to recoup some of the thousands of dollars of his retirement money lost in this goofy fight.
In the years since he sold his Sweetwater condo, Murphree got married and has moved into a new home in St. Augustine. He likes his new community a lot better – there are no flag restrictions. He currently has eight flags displayed on his property, and yes, one of them is in a flower pot on the front porch.