NJ town can’t ban Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ flag, ACLU says
A Jersey Shore town that's hauling a homeowner before a judge for the offense of flying a Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" flag on his property may be in for a yuuuge legal fight.
A civil liberties group that has successfully challenged local New Jersey laws against political signage says the West Long Branch ordinance is unconstitutional — not only because limits on political speech are unlawful, but because officials can't discriminate between flags.
Joe Hornick was ticketed by a police officer after officials received a complaint about a flag in his yard flying in support of the Republican presidential candidate.
A borough ordinance prohibits any signs being posted more than 30 days before an election.
Hornick, in a post on the West Long Branch Residents page on Facebook, contends that his flag is no different than a for-sale sign or a flag in support of an organization.
Borough Clerk Lori Cole told New Jersey 101.5 that "our borough attorney determined that a flag is considered a political sign."
But Jeanne LoCicero, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said the ordinance on its face sounds like it is unconstitutional.
"Political signs cannot be time limited," said LoCicero, whose group had successfully won similar cases against Wyckoff, Hawthorne and Franklin Lakes over ordinances that limited the amount of time a sign remains on private property.
"Political signs are a form of political speech and residents are allowed to engage in that all year long."
A community can have regulations about the size of a flag, for example, but "once (a community) allows flags they have to allow all flags. They can't prefer a message on one flag over another," LoCicero said.
The borough's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Cole said Hornick has a Municipal Court hearing on April 20 where he could be fined anywhere between $100 and $2,000, a 90 day jail sentence or possibly both. Cole could not recall any cases in West Long Branch where someone went to jail over a political sign.
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