GOP Lawmakers Back Fla. Man in Rift Over Displaying Flag

Tuesday, 01 Jul 2014 10:28 PM

By Todd Beamon

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A Florida man who may lose his home for displaying an American flag outside it has received support from two of the Sunshine State's Republicans in Congress.

"When did we relinquish our common sense as citizens in this country?" Rep. Gus Bilirakis, vice chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, asked The Hill.

Bilirakis is backing Larry Murphree, 73, who is facing foreclosure of his Jacksonville condominium this month because he has refused to pay $8,000 in fines for hanging a small flag in a flower pot on his front porch, the Hill reports. The flag violates the rules of the community's homeowners' association.

"It is absurd that a veteran who wants to display his love of country is being punished. It is even more preposterous that he could lose his home," Bilirakis said. "The homeowners association should do the right thing and waive the fees and let Mr. Murphree exercise his First Amendment rights."

Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who represents the district in which Murphree lives, called him a "true patriot."

"Larry Murphree's dedication to country in the Vietnam War and his fight to fly the American flag today is the story of a true patriot, and I commend him," Crenshaw told The Hill.

Murphree told Fox News that displaying the flag demonstrated pride and support for U.S. troops. He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

"The flag is worth fighting for," he told Fox. "If they want to foreclose, bring it on. I'm getting calls from all over the country to stand up. That's what I'm going to do."

Murphree and the homeowners' association at Tides Condominium at Sweetwater began their battle in 2011, when the association charged that he had improperly hung a flag outside his home.

He sued the association, and everyone eventually reached a settlement, The Hill reports.

But last year, the group changed its rules — barring Murphree from displaying the flag in his flower pot — and it has since fined him $100 a day for the violation.

Now the association says that Murphree owes $8,000 and it will start foreclosure proceedings if he doesn't pay the fines soon, reports The Hill.

A federal court turned down a second lawsuit Murphree brought against the association, but said he could pursue the matter in state court.

Michelle Haines, the association's attorney, told Fox that Florida law allows her client to fine any condo owner $100 a day, up to a maximum of $1,000.

She said the association would foreclose on Murphree for being delinquent on his monthly assessment, Fox reports.

"It's a small flag, but it stands for a big thank you and it shows the love and respect I have for my country," Murphree told Fox.

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