Going to Jail for Flying "Old Glory"?
Developer considers Old Glory "Visual Nuisance"

The Promise
By Shu Bartholomew

Some people living in homeowners’ associations tend to have an unhealthy preoccupation with their neighbors and feel compelled to keep close tabs on them.  Their justification for their officiousness and intrusion is to protect property values by ensuring conformity and uniformity.  And so, having wrapped themselves in self righteousness, they proceed to turn these artificially uniform enclaves into mini war zones. 

One such battlefield is Wyndham, an upscale development in the Richmond, Virginia suburbs.   The object currently in the Wyndham association crosshairs happens to be the flagpole from which the Oultons fly an American flag, a flag meant to honor the 604 men in Richard’s battalion who were killed in action during the Viet Nam war.  And because of the high casualties they sustained in combat, the battalion earned the nickname of “The Walking Dead”.  The recipient of a Purple Heart and a Combat Action Ribbon, Richard was awarded a Congressional Veteran Commendation this past  November for the honorable service he performed while a member of the Armed Forces. 

But alas, homeowners’ associations are not known for their tolerance of patriots or flags, although the politically correct ones insist it is not the flag they object to per se, and omit any specific language relating to the flag.

Wyndham is no different.

As Richard tells it, being an attorney, he read all 250 pages of The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions prior to buying their house.  Nothing he read caused him to rethink the purchase he was about to make.  Nowhere in the “book of restrictions” were the words flag or flagpole to be found.  “I took the CC&Rs at their word”, he said. 

This outraged and upset many people, including members of the legislature who responded by unanimously voting in The Wyndham Flag Bill.  This statute basically provides that no homeowners association can prohibit a homeowner from flying a flag unless they disclose it at the time of sale.  Despite the fact that the new law was enacted specifically for the Wyndham flag case and was called the Wyndham Flag Law, the judge ruled that the law did not apply to the Oultons’ case.  He ignored the 
"Visual Nuisance" ?
Click on Picture to see big version!
law.  He also dismissed the Oultons’ arguments claiming their defenses “complicated the case”.  And, just for good measure, Judge Harris changed his mind at the last minute and denied them a trial by a jury of their peers.  With no laws to protect them, no jury to decide the facts in their case, and with none of the facts “complicating the case”, the Oultons, predictably, lost.

After their attempts to appeal to both the Virginia and United States Supreme courts failed, they found themselves back in Judge Harris’ court room.  With no higher authority left to turn to, the Oultons ultimately lost their battle.  Judge Harris ordered them to remove their flagpole and the flag by March 1, 2003 or to be prepared to face the consequences. 

Should the “consequences” include a stay in the county jail, as Richard suspects, they’ll have to make arrangements for their two small children.  With no family in the area, they face some pretty tough decisions.  They also face the possibility of losing the 6 month infant they are in the process of adopting. 

At the base of the flagpole is an inscribed bronze plaque that starts with a promise,” I will always fly these flags, as “I owe it to my boys”, to my “Walking Dead Marines’”.  Many of the men in Richard’s battalion died in his arms, and by taking down the flag he believes he would be betraying his men and betraying the ultimate price they paid to protect our right to fly the flag. 

While their fellow homeowners in Wyndham do not object to the flagpole or the flag, and have signed petitions in support of the Oultons, once the board started beating the drums of war, and the attorneys got involved, the will of the members themselves seems to matter not a whit.

Plaque :
To my Walking Dead Marines
Click on Picture to see big version!

Judge Harris rules that: The "Wyndham Flag Law" does not apply to Wyndham. 

 In the January 2000 Virginia General Assembly: Senator Bolling sponsored the Wyndham Flag Bill to make the developer attempt to ban our American flag as a "Visual Nuisance" illegal.  The bill passed the 2000 General Assembly on a unanimous vote and was later signed by Governor Gilmore and became "The Wyndham Flag Law." 

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