A 75-year-old New Jersey woman who lives in public housing has been ordered to remove the three small American flags she keeps on her balcony, and she's claiming it's a violation of her constitutional rights.
“I hung my flags out and they sent a maintenance man to take them down,” Dawn Paulus told Fox News Radio, before adding: “I left my flag up anyway.”
But the various accounts differ as to why the flags need to be removed.
Paulus claims she was told to take them down because if the board allowed an American flag, they'd also apparently have to allow a Nazi flag or a Confederate flag.
“He told me that I can’t have the flags because of the Nazi flags,” she said. “If I hung the American flag up, and someone hung a Nazi flag up, they couldn’t tell them to take the Nazi flag down and still let me fly the American flag.”
But Paul Rummerfield, the executive director of the Phillipsburg Housing Authority, told Fox News Radio that tenants simply aren't allowed to hang anything off the balcony.
“It’s not so much the flag as the bracket coming loose, that we’re concerned about,” he explained.
But Paulus fired back that tenants often hang laundry from their balconies, and there never seems to be a problem with that.
Brad Jacob, a constitutional law expert at Regent University, thinks Paulus may have a winning case if she decides to press the matter.
“This is so much of a core free speech issue...because it’s the government the First Amendment comes into play,” he said.
“Flying the flag is one of the purest examples of First Amendment speech and expression. It clearly implicates Constitutional issues when the government tries to tell you that you cannot speak.”
He added: “Their justification is we must ban all because some of it will offend...Traditionally, that’s a losing argument. Traditionally, free speech wins out. And if someone is offended at another person’s speech, they’re just offended.”
However, Paulus could be evicted if the board decides she has violated her lease, and in that case, she remarked: "I don't know where I'll go."
“These veterans fought for us for freedom and now you can’t even fly the flag for them," she concluded.