Jack Rice - Blog

Jack Rice is a criminal defense trial lawyer who provides legal advice to those charged with crimes in Federal and Minnesota State courtrooms.


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Should This Resident Be Required to Remove This From Her House?

According to a recent article in the Durango Herald:
Peace sign creates stir
Pagosa homeowners asked to remove symbol or risk fine
November 26, 2006
By Thomas Munro Herald Staff Writer
A Pagosa Springs resident is resisting an order by her homeowners' association to remove a peace symbol-shaped wreath from an exterior wall of her home.

RANDI PIERCE/Special to the Herald
Bill Trimarco and Lisa Jensen stand next to their peace wreath at their home near Pagosa Springs on Friday. The couple received a letter Tuesday from their subdivision’s homeowners’ association telling them to take down the sign or face a fine of $25 per day.

"I just wanted to put a message of peace out there," said Lisa Jensen, who hung the wreath Nov. 19. She said Wednesday she didn't intend the wreath as a statement against the Iraq war.

"I was really trying to be in favor of something - peace," Jensen said.

She was informed by letter from the Loma Linda Homeowners' Association that "Loma Linda residents are offended by the Peace Sign displayed on the front of your house."
The letter, citing a use-restriction banning "signs, billboards or advertising structures of any kind" within the subdivision without prior approval, said the wreath had to come down by Friday, or Jensen and husband, Bill Trimarco, would face a $25-per-day fine.

Jensen said Saturday that Friday's deadline had come and gone without contact from the board of directors. She was unsure of how, if imposed, collection of any fine would be enforced, but planned to leave all of her Christmas decorations, including the wreath, up until after Christmas.
Homeowners' Association President Bob Kearns said Wednesday that the board had required another resident to remove peace symbols a week before, and that property owner complied.
Jensen said the other property owner, a neighbor, had sunk skis marked with peace symbols in his driveway as driveway markers. She said the neighbor told her he was informed that residents were offended by the posting of the peace symbols "while our country is at war."
Kearns declined to describe the complaints he had received about Jensen's wreath but expressed his own opinion.

"The peace sign has a lot of negativity associated with it," he said. "It's also an anti-Christ sign. That's how it started."

The 1972 edition of Symbol Sourcebook: An Authoritative Guide to International Graphic Symbols, a major reference work by Henry Dreyfuss, admits to uncertainty about the source of the "crow's foot" design.

"Controversy surrounds the origin of the ubiquitous peace symbol," Dreyfuss wrote. "It was introduced by pacifist Lord Bertrand Russell during Easter of 1958, when he marched at Aldermaston, England, campaigning for nuclear disarmament."

Dreyfuss said the symbol, designed by a British commercial artist, most likely represents the convergence of the semaphore symbols for the letter and D and the circle symbol, for total nuclear disarmament. Others claim the symbol represents an upside-down cross with broken arms and is therefore anti-Christian or Satanic.

Jensen said she put up the wreath to honor the Biblical call for peace and goodwill toward men.
She said the board had unfairly singled out the display, given that other houses regularly display Christmas lights. A former president of the board, she described the current board as "pretty vitriolic."

Kearns denied any personal vitriol. He said Jensen and Trimarco were first notified of the decision in a letter attached to an e-mail stating the board's "courtesy and respect (for) the both of you." He said the board has not fined anyone in the three years he has served as president and that the board would place itself in legal jeopardy if it treated Jensen's case differently from the other peace symbol offense.

Kearns said those he contacted for legal advice had "laughed at" the idea of allowing the display of a peace symbol.

On Wednesday, every member of the subdivision's five-person Architectural Control Committee was asked to resign when they collectively opposed the decision by the board of directors to fine Jensen and Trimarco.

In a public letter posted on on Friday, Jack Lilly, the chairman of the committee wrote, "The Architectural Committee was asked to intervene. The five members met and decided that no message, other than a wish for peace could be inferred in the symbols and saw no violation of the CC&Rs (covenants, codes and restrictions). The Board of Directors has the authority to override the ACC and did so. But that wasn't enough. They demanded that anyone that disagreed with them should be removed from the committee. We all resigned."

Changes in Colorado law in 2005 prevent homeowners' associations from prohibiting a number of actions, including display of the American flag, display of a service flag and display of a political sign meant to influence an election.

However, the law does not keep these associations from prohibiting other types of displays. The sign restrictions quoted to Jensen were in force during her presidency.

Jensen said she may consider legal action through the American Civil Liberties Union.
Attempts to contact Kearns were unsuccessful Saturday.