How can I find out if it's legal to fly a big-ass rebel flag in my city?

ALL DISCLAIMERS IN PLACE: I’m not a lawyer myself and I’m not asking for legal advice and don’t hold anyone responsible and I’m not now and have never been a member of the Communist party.

I’m asking this for a co-worker who’s trying to sell her house. A redneck neighbor (who evidently otherwise keeps his house and property neat and clean) recently erected what she calls a “big ass” flagpole and “stadium sized” Confederate flag (meaning this [not the correct one]) at the edge of her street. In addition to just being tacky, she’s understandably worried that seeing this upon turning down her street (which is in a decent middle class neighborhood) will understandably turn-off any potential African-American or liberal buyers in a real estate market that’s already lukewarm. She’s asked me to find out if Montgomery has an ordinance against this.

I’m a research librarian, but legalese is damned near Kryptonite to me. I’ve done focused google searches on the Montgomery city web site but the only things I can find specifically about flagpoles is this resolution from 1985:

As that’s part of a long document I’m really not sure how relevant it is to this lady’s problem.

Any suggestions for other words I can use that may find the answer? I’ve tried “eyesore” and nuisance" (no results with the first and many with the second but none seem relevant) and neither has any results with flag. (I should mention that I’m not particularly concerned about the neighbor’s belief system- I think I speak for my co-worker when I say the neighbor can have a swastika woven into his carpets so long as it’s on the inside of his house- but divorcing the intrinsic offensiveness of the rebel battle flag even an oversized U.S. or Alabama or firefighter/law enforcement/Coast Guard/etc. flag can be unattractive in the wrong type of setting.)

Just to be clear, what’s on the flag is irrelevant to whether its legal to fly - the only thing the city can legislate is the height, shape, size etc., not the content of the flag’s message.

Do you live in a subdivision with a Homeowner’s Association by chance?

If it’s “at the edge of the street” then there may be a right-of-way or setback ordinance that applies.

There may be an applicable ordinance or zoning restriction regarding the area of signs, depending on how the code defines “sign.”

Also be sure to check and see if there are deed restrictions or neighborhood association rules that might apply.

I’m not a lawyer. These are just things I’ve heard about.

I’d check all of those things mentioned, but if none are applicable then the First Amendment applies.

If the neighbor is a decent sort (and hey, he does keep his yard clean) there is always the option to ask him nicely to keep the flag down until the property sale closes. If he is amenable to this, problem solved.

And I do not regard this as unethical in any way, since it isn’t concealing a problem with the home or the property it sits upon, which is all the seller is responsible for.

Call Al Sharpton.

From a legal issue, I agree exactly. However, from a practical standpoint I don’t think a black or mixed-race family would have to be particularly thin skinned to be offended or irked by seeing that flag in a neighborhood they were interested in and thus it could conceivably cost a sale.

As for the neighborhood, I know generally where she lives but not specifically. My understanding from her description is that the house is on the corner where your turn into a cul-de-sac in a completely residential area. I’m not sure if there’s a homeowner’s association but I’ll advise her to find out if she doesnt’ already know.

We did that, but he can’t fit us in until next Friday; evidently a blogger in Wisconsin referred to the Sumatran striped rabbit recently discovered in the tropics of Indonesia as a “jungle bunny” and one of the locals lit up the SHARP-SIGNAL so he’s being detained.

If that doesn’t work, she should get some Civil War re-enactors to come and look at her house. The really super hardcore ones who camp out, don’t shower, and put bacon grease in their beards, like the one in Confederates in the Attic. She should send them to have a chat about the Civil War with the redneck neighbor…

Which may be exactly what he’s trying to achieve - not the loss of a sale per se, but avoiding having black neighbors. If that’s the case, it might be helpful to a potential buyer to be aware of his attitude.

Nitpick: If they flew a flag that said “kill all niggers”, I’m not sure that would be protected speech. Also, if it were pornographic or libelous, then the government could censor it. So it’s not quite true that the content is “irrelevant”.

As for the OP, can’t you just call a town official where you live (or where your friend lives)? The planning department probably has someone who can help you understand if any codes are being violated. But if this guy is purposely trying to keep Blacks away, he can probably make a few changes or do something else equally as ass-holish as this.

Okay, this is gonna get expensive, but hear me out.

Erect identical flagpoles on every lawn on the block. Each one will fly an identically-sized flag.

No two houses will fly the same flag. Have one be American, one Rainbow, one U.N., one Greenpeace, one Redcloak the Goblin from The Order of the Stick (see the final panel), one McDonalds, you get the drift.

I’m sure your co-worker’s neighbor will happily do all the research himself. :smiley:

Pure WAG here but you might want to look into the federal Fair Housing Act and see if the flag may intimidate potential buyers of your co-worker’s home to the point where illegal discrimination could take place.

Yeah, it’s stretching things a bit but not any more so than kaylasdad99’s idea.

Locally the city was suing a business owner to remove a huge American flag he was flying because there are size limitations for signs in the city ordinances, and it had already been concluded that a flag was a form of signage. Perhaps her town has a similar ordinance.


I think it’s a mistake to turn this into a legal battle. I would ask very nicely for the man to take it down (bring him cookies or something), and if he won’t I think she’s going to have to live with it. Even if it’s illegal, the guy could do other, worse things if he feels his “rights” have been violated.

For instance, and I know this isn’t the same, but a town near where I grew up had a gay couple living there. The church found out, and tried to run them out of town using some stupid legal argument. Obviously this didn’t work, and in protest, the couple painted their large Victorian home (in a nice neighborhood) hot pink and purple, and started flying a large rainbow flag. They had previously been unobtrusive. Now, yay for them, and I love this, but you don’t want Mr. confererate flag getting the same sorts of ideas.

Not having seen it myself, it would be ironic if it was this rebel flag variant.

Having Union reenactors come and fire the place might really work. It worked the last time they were in town (it’s ironic, as I’ve mentioned before, that one of the few times Alabama legislators were overwhelmingly in favor of taking the rebel flag down from the capitol was when the northern troops dropped in for a weekend visit in 1865 [shortly after burning half of Selma and the University of Alabama]).

We could arrange for a return visit if you want.

Haven’t you heard, the North has been occupying the South for 145 years!

I would call the city attorney and ask. His number is on the web site. My guess is a plate of cookies is unlikely to get the desired response from someone would put a giant Stars and Bars on his property.

Pardon me for chirping up in what is abviously an American thread.

Is the Confederate Flag so bad after all these years?

I mean 1864 it was all over, done and dusted…almost 150 years ago fergawdsake

Which is precisely why the claims of some people that they fly it out of historical interest are so unconvincing. On the other hand, it has been revived in recent decades as a symbol of racism, white pride, and “Southern pride” (which is usually–though perhaps not always–the same thing).

I’ve heard that a similar (though milder) situation is arising with the English flag–that most of those who fly it are right-wing anti-immigrant nationalists, while most English see themselveas as Brits (or, increasingly, Europeans) first and prefer to use the Union Jack or the Eurpean Flag. As a result, the English flag is becoming tainted with right-wing associations. It’s a shame, since there is no such association with the Scottish flag, but perfectly understandable. At least the English nationalists have the excuse that there still is an England.

Not to start a huge debate over this, but there’s some recent history there as well. Until the anti-segregation laws started being passed and enforced the confederate flag was hardly to be found. In the 1950’s, Strom Thurmond used it as part of his Dixiecrat symbols to represent their desire to retain the status quo. Since then it has been adopted by white power groups and many people view it as a hate symbol. As Gary T pointed out, what the neighbor may be doing is indicating that black people would not be welcome in the neighborhood.