It hasn't been a banner year for the Burr family of Louisiana, and now they are being sued by their homeowners association for flying a frontyard sign supporting their son who's in the Marines.
The Gardens of Southgate property owners group in Bossier City, La., filed a lawsuit against Jodi and Timothy Burr this month because the couple has refused to take down a streamer that reads "Our son defends our freedom" and that violates the neighborhood's ban on signs.
The development's covenants stipulate that "[n]o sign of any kind shall be displayed to the public view on any lot." But Jodi Burr told The Huffington Post that she's had signs outside her home since they arrived in 2006 without any problems, and that other neighbors have gotten away with breaking the rule in the past.
"The restrictions have been in place, but not enforced at all," the 41-year-old public school teacher said. "I try to stay away from the word 'discrimination,' but there is definitely selective enforcement of the covenants."
She and her husband installed the professionally designed sign in January to honor their 20-year-old son Corey, a lance corporal in the Marines deployed to combat in Afghanistan.
"They don't know what's in a mother's heart to have a son deployed," she said. "It was very difficult for me ... The best way for me to deal with it is to have an outward display of our pride. We have not received one single piece of criticism about our sign."
The war over words began in February, when the homeowners groups sent the Burrs a letter telling them to take down the 3 feet by 6 feet banner praising Corey. But there was no mention of the two other signs already in the yard that said things like "Burr Family Est. 1990," according to Burr.
The homeowners group apparently sensed that they were staking an unpopular position with the salvo, because the letter said the group "appreciates the message on the sign," according to court documents.
The attorney representing the Gardens of Southgate declined to be interviewed, but told the HuffPost via email that his clients have not singled out the Burrs.
"The [homeowners association] is consistently asking others to remove signs -- as recently as the last two weeks they have sent letters to two residents on the same issue," Geoffrey Westmoreland said. "Information being disseminated to the contrary is simply not accurate."
Pro-bono lawyers Lane Pittard and Bill Kindig are representing the Burrs, who feel that the homeowners association is attacking their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.
The Shreveport Times reported about the lawsuit on Saturday.
The controversy is unfolding in an area with many active members of the military and veterans. The town is near Barksdale Air Force Base in northwestern Louisiana, and the homeowners group estimates that at least 25 percent of residents in the subdivision "are military."
But they didn't back down from pressuring the Burrs to remove the sign. Shortly after the first letter, the group sent a delegate -- who happened to be an active Air Force member -- to meet face-to-face with the family and find out why the sign hadn't budged.
That confab ended in an impasse however. A series of letters flew back and forth with the homeowners association demanding that the sign be taken down while the Burrs requested meetings to resolve the dispute and possibly change the rules created by the developer.
The homeowners association president T.K. Mastny -- who is also the president of the Republican Women of Bossier -- didn't return calls from The Huffington Post.
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