Conn. condo association orders military mom to remove U.S. flag

Thursday, February 8, 2007

EAST WINDSOR, Conn. — The American flag flying outside Teresa Richard’s condominium is more than a patriotic gesture, it’s a link to her son serving in Afghanistan.

So when her condo association told her she’d have to take it down after Labor Day or face a fine, Richard was resolute — the flag was staying up. She’s written letters to everyone from the local veterans’ group to President Bush.

Her son, Cpl. Tony Donihee, a member of the Connecticut National Guard, saluted the flag when he was home for a visit. Now back in Afghanistan, Donihee calls his mother about once every two weeks to talk and to ask if the flag is still there.

“I haven’t heard from Tony for a week, and I don’t know when I’ll hear from him again. People don’t know what that’s like,” she told the Hartford Courant. “Right now, that’s my son. That’s my connection.”

But the Stoughton Ridge Condominium Association says the flag is in violation of “common area” rules. The group notified Richard that the American flag, along with her Blue Star flag hung by mothers of soldiers, will be tolerated until Labor Day weekend. Every day after that, she will be subject to a $25 fine.

Richard, however, says Public Law 109-243 gives her the legal right to fly the U.S. flag, the Courant reported.

Signed last July by President Bush, the law bars condominium and homeowner associations from restricting how the American flag can be displayed. The statute states, in part, “A condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.”

Association officers did not respond to several requests from the Courant seeking comment.

The East Windsor Veterans Commission has written to Richard’s condo association urging it not to destroy an “honorable and long tradition.”

“We feel the American flag should be flown any place, any time, without any restrictions,” commission Chairman Warren Wenz said. “This isn’t Nazi Germany or Japan during World War II. This is America.”

The condo association adopted the rule in October 2004, two years after a similar situation with some residents who refused to take down their flags. One resident, Gene Doering, hired an attorney and threatened to sue. He said he hasn’t heard from the association since. His flag remains on a pole in his front lawn.

“I was surprised that [the association] even wanted to tackle the issue,” Doering said. “I mean, what is wrong with these people?”

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