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Homeowner's association threatens to take veteran's home over U.S. flag

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Larry Murphree, a veteran who lives in Florida, is facing foreclosure and could lose his home -- not because he's behind in his mortgage payments, but because he dared to display a small U.S. flag in a flower pot outside his home, WTEV reported Tuesday.

“I want it to go away," Murphree told WTEV. "It's such a minor little thing and they keep coming after me."

"They," WTEV said, is Murphree's local homeowner's association who, for whatever reason, dislikes his display of the U.S. flag.

Murphree, WTEV added, has lived in the neighborhood for years, and has had problems with the association for over two years. Being a veteran, he decided to place a small flag in a flower pot, and received a fine.

“They just sent me a letter that says I owe them around $8,000 and they put a foreclosure lien on my house,” he said.

WTEV investigated and found that Florida law says Murphree can display his flag.

“There’s an actual Florida statute that says he can display this flag,” said legal and safety expert Dale Carson.

Moreover, the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, a measure signed by President George W. Bush in 2006, says that a condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association "may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use."

But it seems the homeowner's association has decided it will continue to pursue Murphree despite the clear language of federal and state laws. Michelle Haines, an attorney with the firm that represents the association, told WTEV's Erica Bennett that if payment is not made in 30 days, the firm can move forward with foreclosure.

Murphree, Bennett added, filed a lawsuit after a similar fight last year. He settled out of court, but the rules have been re-written since then. Murphree told Bennett he won't stop until he is free to fly his flag.

“When I first moved here, I loved it. it was wonderful. But it got where I’m being nitpicked more and more. I’ve lost a lot of friends and neighbors moving out. I don't want to move," he said.

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