It’s infuriating that anyone could object to a lawn sign or banner that says Hate Has No Home Here.
Organizers of the slogan campaign insist that it isn’t political and that they have no goal besides combating hate and reminding us of what it really means to be American. But ever since the banners bearing the slogan started popping up in yards a year ago, they’ve encountered pushback from people put off by their message of inclusion.
That didn’t stop Cindy Rosenfeld, 48, who lives in Doylestown Station, a condo community of about 200 townhouses. In May, she placed a small flag with the slogan translated into five languages, including Arabic, and a heart-shaped American flag at the foot of her front steps.
“This is our family’s version of a welcome mat,” said Rosenfeld, an administrator for Princeton University’s dance program. “It’s just a tiny little way to show the outside world that people are welcome here, regardless of what color they are or what religion they are or who they choose to love.”
For months, she got no negative feedback. After some neighbors complimented her on the flag, she made some for them and gave them out. Then, on Nov. 6, she got a letter from her condo board informing her that it had gotten complaints and that her banner needed to be removed because the rules only allow “freestanding, small decorative or commemorative flags not to exceed one square foot.”
Rosenfeld, who insists that her flag conformed with the condo’s guidelines for garden flags, tried to appeal the decision, to no avail.
She later learned that the board had revoked its notice requiring her to remove the flag — but that the association’s rules were about to be amended to prohibit all garden flags. It wasn’t long before Rosenfeld got official word that garden flags had been banned. Fearful of being fined, Rosenfeld reluctantly removed her flag.
But the slogan lives on in that big heart of hers.
Rosenfeld has affixed a large “Hate Has No Home Here” sticker onto her trash dumpster and also on her car. She’s also started a Change.org petition to create awareness and gather support for the flag.
“It made it a much more welcoming community,” said Shannon Courtleigh, a former Doylestown Station Condominium Association board member, who stepped down over the handling of the flag issue. “These flags really aren’t political. If you look at the history of these flags, they were created by children. It’s adults who have made them political statements.”
Courtleigh added, “It wasn’t like they were littering the community. It wasn’t like they were on every doorstep. So why did we make such a big deal out of them?”
Attempts to reach the association’s law firm, Brady & Cissne Law, this week were unsuccessful. Lawyer Samantha D. Cissne wrote to me earlier that she couldn’t comment because a review of the issue hadn’t been finalized.
Burton Caine, a professor emeritus at Temple University Beasley School of Law, said Rosenfeld may have legal recourse and suggested she contact the American Civil Liberties Union.
“My view is that [the condo association’s rule] violates the First Amendment, because she has the right to use her house to convey a message — especially a political message, which has heightened protections under the First Amendment,” Caine told me Wednesday. “She’s not infringing on anyone else.”
Rosenfeld recently posted on Facebook about a brief encounter with a neighbor, a woman who she claims told her, “Look, personally I don’t have a problem with your flag, but I agree with the board that people here don’t want to see political/controversial messages in the neighborhood.”
Rosenfeld replied: “I don’t have a problem with Christmas decorations, but can’t you see how someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas might not want to see religious messages? Why should the board get the right to say religious symbolism is OK but a one-square-foot garden flag that literally says ‘Hate Has No Home Here’ is not?”
To which her neighbor said, “Please get off my driveway.”
Rosenfeld could have spared herself the aggravation by simply removing the flag the first time she was asked. But the encounter with the closed-minded neighbor reminded her of why she had fought back in the first place.
“That’s why I’m doing this,” she told me.