Marine Sued for Flying American Flag on 20-Foot Flagpole

| Sunday, January 16, 2011 | |
by Mike Morris

A Marine Corps veteran is being sued by his Cypress-area homeowners association because the flagpole on which he flies the United States and Marine Corps flags does not meet his subdivision's design guidelines.

Mike Merola and his lawyer, Lee Thweatt, say this is a classic case of overreach by a nitpicking homeowners association. Lakeland Village Community Association says it is seeking to enforce its rules evenly on all residents.

Standing in his backyard in a black T-shirt bearing an eagle and the American flag, the 60-year-old Merola called that argument "a lame excuse." After his application to erect a 20-foot flagpole in his backyard was denied, he protested in a series of letters and, ultimately, erected the pole anyway.

"They just don't understand, unless they've been in the military, to feel the pride that I feel in flying that flag high and proud," said Merola, who served in the Marines from 1969 to 1977. "The excuses and things that they came up with for me not being able to fly that flagpole, I just didn't buy. That's why I bucked the system and put it up."

Merola's next-door neighbors, Satish and Ann Kalra, said the pole does not bother them. "The homeowners association should look at the rules again," Satish Kalra said. "If the rules need to be modified, they should be modified. … That would be the logical thing to do."

Thweatt, who took the case pro bono, said he believes the suit violates the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which says, in part, that a homeowners association "may not adopt or enforce any policy … that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag."

"I hope we can come to some kind of agreement that will let me continue to fly the flag loud and proud for as long as I live," Merola said.



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