In a crackdown on unlawful yard signage, officials in Bartow, Fla. are ordering residents to remove signs reading “God Bless America” from their yards. The signs feature a cross and an American flag.
While some residents are crying assault on religion, the city has banned posting any signs on private property for the past 13 years, religious or not.
The First Church of Bartow distributed the offending signs to parishioners over the summer in celebration of the 4th of July. And although the decorations were tolerated for a while — signs are permitted for temporary usage during major holidays — some residents have kept them up for more than three months.
Bartow Code Enforcement Director Gregg Lamb sad, "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 4th of July. The sign ordinance has exceptions for that.”
Not all residents agree with the law. "I personally feel if it were on a city right-of-way, they would have a right to remove it. But this is my yard that I'm paying the taxes on. It's my right," said local resident Emmett Purvis.
But the government will no longer tolerate the displays, and the City of Bartow Code Enforcement gave residents three days to remove them.
WTVT-TV reported that after the three-day grace period, residents could be charged $25 per day until the signs come down. But Lamb denied the financial threat in an interview with The Blaze.
Lamb also told The Blaze that the media has focused on the religious aspect of the signs, but has ignored what the issue is really about. The content has nothing to do with the crackdown; the city simply wants residents to abide by the local code, no matter what the signs may say.
Said Lamb, “If they want to make an ordinance to allow a particular type of sign, then they need to change that by ordinance.”