Residents of a Florida city – Bartow – who have had “God Bless America” signs posted on their front lawns for months have been ordered by local officials to remove them.
The First Baptist Church of Bartow says they distributed some 300 signs to residents following last summer’s Fourth of July celebration. The city only permits residents to display signs during major holidays, and is now beginning to crack down on the displays.
“Being a veteran, I felt like I was just kicked in the gut. I couldn’t believe it, that I couldn’t display my love for my nation by putting a sign up that says “God Bless America,” said Bartow resident Marcus Seger.
Bartow’s code enforcement division recently notified citizens with signs that its temporary sign ordinance has been in place for 13 years. They further go on in the notice to praise themselves for already allowing for some exceptions — yard displays. Bartow Code Enforcement Director, Gregg Lamb, said:
They can have those signs out on holidays that are relevant. 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.
Many Bartow residents disagree with the ordinance and have no plans to comply with the city’s request. “This is my yard that I’m paying the taxes on. It’s my right,” Emmett Purvis, an area resident with a sign, told MyFoxTampaBay.com.
The amount of residents that are expected to seek a waiver from the ordinance at an upcoming Bartow City Commission meeting, are growing in numbers. The city’s code enforcement division does not enforce fines or penalties for non-compliance, according them, but someone is threatening to fine the taxpaying citizens $25.00 per day.
City Manager George Long, released a statement late Friday reminding residents that code enforcement officers are targeting all types of signs, regardless of the message.
“It is clear that some recipients of the notices have interpreted them as an indication that their message of ‘God Bless America’ is in violation of city code. This interpretation is not the case or the intent of the city. Instead, the issue is and remains the sign type – not the message,” Long said.
Whether or not City Manager Long is being honest with his assessment of the crack down, remains up to you, the reader. However, it does seem as if the First Amendment does not apply to the faithful, if we were to be honest about it.