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Of American Flags And Property Rights

by @ 7:04 pm on October 15, 2009. Filed under Freedom of Speech, Individual Liberty, Politics, Property Rights

Many on the right side of the blogosphere have gotten upset over the story about an Oregon apartment complex that told residents to take down an American flag:

ALBANY, Ore. – At the Oaks Apartments in Albany, the management can fly their own flag advertising one and two bedroom apartments – but residents have been told they can’t fly any flags at all.

Jim Clausen flies the American flag from the back of his motorcycle. He has a son in the military heading back to Iraq, and the flag – he said – is his way of showing support.

“This flag stands for all those people,” said Clausen, an Oaks Apartment resident. “It stands for the people that can no longer stand – who died in wars. That’s why I fly this flag.”

But to Oaks Apartment management, Clausen said, the American flag symbolizes problems.

He was told to remove the red, white and blue from both of his rides, or face eviction.

“It floored me,” he said. “I can’t believe she was saying what she was saying.”

Even long-time residents like Sharron White, who has flown a flag on her car for eight years, has been told to take it down.

White said management told her that “someone might get offended.”

“I just said to her ‘They’ll just have to get over it,'” White said.

Resident we talked to who had been approached to take down their flags all told us the same thing: that management told them the flags could be offensive because they live in a diverse community.

Attempts to find out for ourselves why management would ban flags were unsuccessful. KATU wanted to talk to management at Oaks Apartments, but no one has returned our calls. The woman we were told had made the decision said she was “not going to answer any questions.”

As it turns out, the management company decided to rescind the flag policy after the negative press it generated:

ALBANY, Ore. — Flags are OK again at an Albany apartment complex after the property manager reviewed the policy and decided she didn’t have the legal standing to ban flags from the exteriors of apartments and vehicles parked at the complex.

“If people want to fly any flag of any nationality, it’s their right,” said Barb Holcomb with Oaks Apartments.

KVAL News also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union to ask whether the policy banning flags from the apartment complex violated any laws. The answer from the ACLU: No.

And the reason, for that, of course, is that there is no First Amendment right when you’re dealing a private entity such as an apartment complex and because the complex has the right, as property owner, to set policies about what can be done with that property, including banning American flags and political signs if they wish to.

As it turned out, this particular complex decided that the bad press was more trouble than it was worth, and they changed the policy. Again, though, this is something they had every right to do.

One Response to “Of American Flags And Property Rights”

  1. Cargosquid says:

    Even if the flags were on private property, such as vehicles? Would that entail restrictions on other property, such as firearms, inside your apartment? This is really a grey area.

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