The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) represents Wayne and Bonnie Anderson, who live in The Villages, Florida. In their yard, the Andersons have placed a small, white cross as an expression of their religious speech and beliefs, and a colorful parrot as a decorative ornament. The cross and parrot are the only two items the Andersons display in their yard. The cross is small, just 12 inches tall, but it has become a target of censorship in The Villages.
According to the Community Standards Department of The Villages, someone complained about the Andersons’ cross. Now, the Andersons have been asked to remove it or face serious consequences, including exorbitant fines, a possible lawsuit, and even the imposition of a lien on their property.
Yes, you read that right; the Andersons’ cross could literally cost them.
What makes the situation even worse, however, is that the Andersons are one family of many in The Villages who have decorations in their yard, including properties surrounding the Andersons’ house. While The Villages’ Deed Restrictions Standards state that lawn ornaments are prohibited, this rule is not enforced against numerous properties all across The Villages – except for the Andersons’. This rule is being used against the Andersons arbitrarily and selectively.
In speaking with a representative from the Villages, the Andersons pointed out the selective enforcement of this Deed Restriction against them and their cross. In response, the representative’s answer was that the Deed Restriction Standards are only enforced after a complaint has been made against a property or property owner. Since complaints had not been made against those other properties, their lawn ornaments could stay.
We sent a demand letter to The Villages outlining the relevant law that provides protections to the Andersons and their religious speech. Additionally, we are seeking assurance that the arbitrary enforcement of The Villages Deed Restriction against the Andersons’ cross will cease, that the fines they have incurred thus far will be voided, and that the small white cross will be permitted to stay.
We will keep you updated on this matter as it progresses. As always, thank you for your continued support and engagement with the ACLJ as we advocate for people like the Andersons.
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