BARTOW, Fl. — Residents in a small city in Florida are outraged after municipal officials asked them to remove ‘God bless America’ signs from their yard due to a city ordinance governing temporary signs.
The signs, approximately 300 in all, were distributed this past Fourth of July by First Baptist Church of Bartow, and many residents in the city decided to plant them in their front yard. To this date, approximately 20-25 signs are still displayed.
However, a thirteen-year-old ordinance, which allows residents to place temporary signs in their yard, also limits the time in which the signs may be posted.
“They can have those signs out on holidays that are relevant,” Bartow Code Enforcement Director Gregg Lamb told MyFOX Tampa Bay.
Lamb says that the signs need to come down as four months is too long.
But some residents are balking at the city and state that their signs will stay put.
“I personally feel if it were on a city right-of-way, they would have a right to remove it,” Emmitt Purvis told the outlet. “But this is my yard that I’m paying the taxes on. It’s my right.”
Therefore, a number of Bartow citizens plan to show up at a city commission meeting today and request that an exemption to the law be permitted. City officials state that if residents want an exception, then they need to seek to change the law.
“If they want to make an ordinance to allow a particular type of sign, then they need to change that by ordinance,” Lamb told reporters.
City Manager George Long released a statement about the matter to note that the city was not opposing the message on the signs, as the ordinance applies to all types of temporary displays.
“It is clear that some recipients of the notices have interpreted them as an indication that their message of ‘God Bless America’ is in violation of city code. This interpretation is not the case or the intent of the city,” he stated. “Instead, the issue is and remains the sign type—not the message.”
The ordinance carries a $25 a day fine for infringement, but officials state that they have no plans to fine residents who defy the law.
A similar battle took place last year in Grove City, Oklahoma, where city officials removed signs from a church lawn because they used the name of Jesus. As previously reported, City Council member Marty Dyer, the pastor of Newsong Church in Grove, told reporters that the wording on the sign was a problem.
“From a governmental perspective, … when you start putting out a particular name and a particular religion, in this case Christianity, that’s when the issue arose,” he said.
“There is no other name—Jesus—under heaven given to men by which we can be saved,” Pastor Tony Wisdom declared. “So don’t take my signs down, because I will put up a thousand more. And more than that, I will boldly speak the name of Jesus with love until my last breath.”