A sign that proclaims “Jesus is the reason for the season” is the reason behind a small holy war in a Washington state neighborhood.
At issue is the placard posted by Tim Meeker, a Christian who lives in the Mediterranean Villas development in Pasco, Wash.
In addition to the mention of Jesus, the sign also features a large declaration of “Merry Christmas.”
The local homeowners association is objecting to the sign, not necessarily because of what it says, but its size.
According to HOA rules, signs cannot be larger than 2 feet by 2 feet. Meeker’s sign is 6 feet by 3-and-a-half feet.
“I feel this is the reason for the season right here and it doesn’t offend anybody,” Meeker told KEPR-TV. “There was no rule against it last year, what’s the problem this year? I’ll see a lawyer. If they take it, I’ll call the police for theft. It’s in my yard, on my property.”
Margaret Jacobson, president of the volunteer homeowners association board, told the Tri-City Herald the neighborhood’s developer created the rules in 2002, and they exist to keep the area attractive for all of the residents among the 217 units.
“Everybody is under the same rule. Nobody is being singled out,” Jacobson said.
She also stressed the association has no problem with the message about Jesus on the sign.
“Nothing is wrong with the message,” Jacobson said. “Our stand is it does not follow the (rules). That’s what we all work under.”
She says residents were given a two-page flier just before Thanksgiving to remind them about restrictions for holiday decorations, including the size limit for signs.
According to KEPR-TV, the board was asked why it didn’t bring up the issue in December of last year when Meeker initially posted it.
The station says the board remained silent “because Tim had just moved in and they didn’t want to rock the boat with a new neighbor.”
Meeker told the Herald he intends to keep the sign posted.
“It shouldn’t be considered a sign. It should be considered my Christmas decorations,” he said.
Jacobson did not specify what, if any, action would be taken if Meeker doesn’t comply with the association’s request to remove the billboard.
“That will be a decision at the board level,” she told Fox News.
Reaction online is mixed, with some championing Meeker’s freedom of speech and worship, and others backing the HOA’s rules to keep the neighborhood clutter-free.
Robert Buce writes, “What this man posts on his own property is his business unless it is openly and deliberately offensive such as hate speech. It is this person’s right to freedom of speech to convey their opinion. As far as any HOA covenants or rules, any HOA rule or covenant that impedes upon a person’s constitutional and/or basic legal rights automatically nullifies such rules and as such can be argued down in court. Lastly, I happen to agree with his sign and its message.”
Cynthia Nordstrom responded, saying, “This is NOT a free speech issue. I wish citizens would read the First Amendment before using it. The GOVERNMENT cannot impede free speech. The HOA rules are completely legal. He knew the rules, [and] agreed to them. Post a sign within the rules and all is well. He’s just another stubborn, ‘rules are for others’ extremist.”
And Bob Wilkinson of Tacoma, Wash., told WND that Meeker could still get his message out with a little bit of creativity: “Do they allow lights? One could form a light string shaped in the same words and be even more visually intrusive to one’s neighbors.”