Would a Religious Yard Sign Spark Contention in Your Neighborhood?
In July, WTLV Consumer Advocate Ken Amaro reported a story about a woman named Sarah Philips. She lives in the Sutton Lakes neighborhood, located just south of Atlantic Blvd. between Kernan and St. Johns Bluff, and is comprised of 496 homes. Amaro’s headline, “Jesus sign creates devilish problem in Jacksonville neighborhood.”
Four years ago last July, Sarah Phillips moved into her home and posted a sign in her yard with one word: Jesus. She received no reaction – negative or positive – from her Sutton Lakes neighbors, but the story doesn’t end there. The community’s Homeowners Association (HOA) declared that having the sign in her yard is a violation of the HOA covenants.
Though Phillips admitted that she signed the Covenant, Conditions and Restrictions, (CCR), but never read into it any indication of a restriction on free expression of religion. In fact, one of Philips’ neighbors has a religious statue in her yard. Both Phillips and her neighbor assert that by signing the CCR, they did not abdicate their “right to freedom of speech, religion, or rights as an American citizen."
Phillips says she plans to leave it where it is. Though Bill Reno, Sutton Lakes property manager, has no personal aversion to the sign, adding that it “breaks his heart” to have to enforce the covenant, he insists, “a rule is a rule.”
The CCR mandates that “No signs are allowed except 'For Sale' or 'For Rent' signs.” Religion has nothing to do with it, said Reno. Diligent reporter Amaro contacted the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU), and though they would not comment on this particular case, they did state: “it is entirely possible that the HOA has the authority to take down the sign.”
What’s your opinion? Should your neighbor have the right to express their religious beliefs publicly, even on their own property? Are these types of public displays inappropriate, and could they be construed as offensive by neighbors with differing religious views?
We’d like to know what you think. Post your comments below.