Free Speech

Gated Community, Gated Speech

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Does living in a gated community abridge your First Amendment rights? According to the Cambridge Park Homeowners Association in Denver, the answer is yes—especially when it comes to the American flag. The Association is seeking to fine one resident for hanging her flag upside-down:

The association board notified Beth Hammer in an April 24 letter that the flag display is against federal flag code and is in violation of the association's "patriotic and political expression policy."

The letter gave her a week to right the flag or face fines that appear to range from $25 to $500.

"Living in a community association offers many advantages to the homeowner, but at the same time, imposes some restrictions," said the letter signed by association manager Melissa Keithly.

Having consulted the federal flag code, Hammer raised up her flag upside-down to indicate the official call of "distress" as a protest against the Iraq war. But this gated community won't stand for such "unpatriotic" displays. An embarrassing climb-down on the part of the community board seems likely, but not without the expense and inconvenience of Hammer hiring herself a lawyer.