An elderly veteran and his wife say there’s “absolutely no way” the flagpole outside their Indiana home is coming down, despite threats from a homeowners association — and a local prosecutor intends to back them in court if necessary.
Bob and Judy Willits insist they intend to fight multiple letters from the Fieldstone Homeowners Association regarding the American and POW/MIA flags outside their Greenfield home. The couple was first told in early September that the freestanding patriotic display wasn’t welcome since it wasn’t mounted to the home.
“We have absolutely no plans to take it down,” Judy Willits told FoxNews.com on Tuesday. “It would be kind of a bloody situation if we had to take the flag down at this point.”
Judy Willits said her 82-year-old husband served four years during the Korean War and now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, as well as a lung ailment that limits his mobility. She said they wanted to show their devotion to the country and sense of community when they first put up the flags around July Fourth.
“He’s paid his price,” she said. “He doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment. And we never thought this would be a problem.”
Local authorities apparently don’t think it should be an issue, either. Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Griffin addressed the homeowners board in an Oct. 23 letter, saying he intends to file a lawsuit if the matter is not resolved by Nov. 1.
“According to the board’s letter dated Oct. 18, the board takes the position that it has authority under the ‘time, place, or manner’ provision of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005,” the letter reads. “In relying on ‘time, place, or manner,’ the board interprets its authority much too broadly.”
The Flag Act, Griffin wrote, actually prevents homeowners associations from enforcing most kinds of regulations regarding display of the American flag unless a “substantial interest” exists.
“The association apparently assumes that it has a legally‐sufficient ‘substantial interest,’” Griffin’s letter continued, noting the association has cited outdoor maintenance as one reason it has oversight of the pole. But, Griffin wrote, "Every homeowners association has those interests. If those general interests were enough, the law would not require a ‘substantial interest,’ it would simply say that homeowners associations always have the right to regulate ‘time, place, or manner.’ But the law does not say that. The law requires a ‘substantial interest,’ something more than the usual interests of homeowners associations.”
Judy Willits said the real issue is the flagpole in the center of a flower bed in the home’s front lawn.
“They want to penalize us for having the flag,” she said. “They say it’s too hard for landscapers to mow, but it’s not in the way. Our argument is it doesn’t hurt anybody.”
Kaye Eckert, president of the homeowners board, confirmed that the flagpole is the crux of the problem.
“We do not tell anyone they cannot fly a flag,” she told FOX 59 last week. “What we are having a problem with is the flagpole. Flagpoles are not allowed in this association. It’s never, ever been about the flag, which that’s what seems to come to the foreground all the time.”
Judy Willits said her husband — whose brother, also a veteran, never returned from Korea — shouldn’t have to fight all over again for the right to fly the flag.
"This really hurts us," she told FoxNews.com. "And unless the courts make us take it down, we’re not going to take it down."
Bob Willits agreed, telling FOX 59: "They can't force me to take it down."