Steve and Robin's last name may be Perfect, but their situation is anything but.
After seeing their son Sgt. Edward Nadler off to war this fall, the Hailey, Idaho couple bought an American flag to fly in support of "Eddie." But when they got home to Copper Ranch Condominiums and placed the flag on a post they thought was their property, neighbors and condominium management told the Perfects they had remove their flag. The demands have sparked a debate over rules that directly or indirectly prevent tenants from flying flags, and now the Perfects are having to defend their right to fly an American flag on American soil.
"We've been harassed and hassled for the past two months, and we're all stressed," Robin, 50, said. "It's bad enough that my only son is going to Iraq -- now I have to worry about this."
After resisting for those last two months, Robin says the couple is "tired." Unlike their son, their tolerance for battle isn't so high. But a battle is exactly what they're in, as now the homeowners association has weighed in and says the couple is in violation of its policies.
"It's about items in the common area," Property manager Brian Emerick told the Idaho mountain Express. "And, tenants are not allowed to place items in the common area ... [including] any number of things, bird houses, wind chimes, anything."
"It's unfortunate it involves the American flag," Emerick told The Blaze, "but from the HOA's perspective it's not about the flag, it's about the rules."
That battle started on September 22. After placing the flag "5 steps" from their front door a day earlier, Steve, 59, told The Blaze he got a call from Lido Equities, the national California-based company that leases the condo they rent. The representative, he said, told him she received complaints about his American flag and said that flying it made it appear that he was "supporting the war." She said he should think about being more considerate to his neighbors and ask them if they objected to the flag.
Begrudgingly, Steve obliged.
He started with a neighbor from across the street who had been a dinner guest of the Perfects before and who had even looked after their condo during a spring trip to Mexico.
According to Steve, he asked the neighbor if she had any problems with him hanging the American flag. The response, he went on to explain, could be considered a resounding "yes."
"Yes I f****** God d*** do!" Steve said she shouted. She continued: "You know what, you take your f****** flag and move out and hang it in your little house, 'cause [the flag] is on common ground and you can't hang it there."
After initially responding calmly, he admitted he got upset: he says he compared her to Jane Fonda and called her a "communist b****."
That neighbor wasn't the only one upset about the flag, however. Steve said the tenants above the Perfects complained the flag was flapping across the sidewalk, and were afraid it might blow in their face. That's when the condominium's homeowners association stepped in and informed the Perfects that the flag was in violation of HOA rules.
But despite requests from the HOA, corporate management, and neighbors, the Perfects refused to move the flag. That prompted another call from the condominium's national office on November 1.
"They said, 'you have to take down the flag,'" Robin recalled, a command she said came with an ultimatum: either the flag moves or the Perfects will be forced out.
Robin responded to the request by quoting an e-mail she received from Idaho U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, which outlined the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005. That law says "a condominium association ... may not adopt or enforce any policy ... that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use."
"She told me she didn't care about the letter, we had to take our flag down," Robin said of her conversation with the representative.
Lido Equities did not respond to a request for comment.
Emerick and the HOA don't seem to care about the letter either. He told the Express that the Senator's letter does not interpret the U.S. law correctly, possibly referring to the law's language that okays "reasonable restrictions."
Still, the Perfects believe they are in the right. And they aren't the only ones. Unlike the Perfects, Brad Serrano is a condominium resident who owns his unit. He told The Blaze that like Steve, he proudly displayed an American flag off the front of his building. On October 28, however, he received a letter from the HOA saying he must remove the flag "immediately" so as "to avoid further action."
He acquiesced -- sort of. He now flies his American flag in a bucket filled with concrete outside his back door. "I'm hoping that's not common ground, but I'm not sure," he said. He added that he does not remember seeing anything about common ground regulations in his rule book, but said that doesn't mean the rule isn't there.
Property manager Emerick refused to provide us with the HOA's rules. However, a copy of those rules eventually obtained by The Blaze shows the association does have a specific rule prohibiting material in the "common elements." It states:
The Perfects say their lease does not say anything about flying flags in common space, while Emerick says the condo's renters are responsible for making sure tenants have a copy of the HOA rules. And while the perfects have moved the flag so that it flies directly outside their condo door instead, Emerick told The Blaze the flag is still in violation of the rules. He and the association are now determining what further action will be taken, and would not confirm that eviction as allegedly threatened by Lido Equities was an option.
That doesn't matter to the Perfects: they say they don't plan on taking it down any time soon.
"I believe in what I'm doing," Robin said, "and I don't think it's right that anybody make anybody take down an American flag."