Man refuses to take down his “Thank You Jesus” sign and he shouldn’t have to.

Yep, this is one of those times I’m going to stand up for one of the believers even if I do think he’s still a bit nutty.

Bill Kriso of Elyria, Ohio has a small sign in a window of the new home he bought that thanks Jesus for providing him with his new shelter. Seems Bill thanks Jesus for a lot of things including surviving a bullet to the head during Vietnam, though you’d think Jesus would’ve been doing him a bigger favor if he’d prevented Bill from being shot in the head in the first place, but if Bill wants to be thankful for the bullet still lodged in his brain then who am I to nitpick? Bill is very grateful that he has a new home and so he put up his small sign which you can see over on the right. No big deal, really, except that he’s been told to remove it by the management of the development he bought his house in:

“People got signs in their windows. There’s a Happy Mother’s Day sign. There’s all kinds of signs all over the place here and nothing is said,” Kriso said.

He got a copy of the bylaws when he bought the house in January. It said that only “For Sale” signs are forbidden, WEWS reported.

The bylaws also forbid excessive lawn ornaments, of which he says his neighbor has plenty.

The park manager wouldn’t talk to NewsChannel5 on camera, but after talking with both parties, it’s believed that the case will likely be settled in court.

Not only is this likely a violation of Bill’s First Amendment rights on a couple of counts, but all things considered that sign is far from being obnoxious compared to what some folks have put up in honor of their imaginary sky fairy. All this is likely to do is generate a fair amount of negative publicity for the managers of the development and give the Far Right more ammunition for claiming that us atheists want to remove all mention of God(s) from everywhere including the privacy of your own home, which simply isn’t true.

So let me go on the record right here and now and say that Bill Kriso has every right to put up his sign thanking Jesus in the window of his home and I fully encourage him to fight for his right to do so in court if necessary. Bill seems dead set on fighting the good fight as well:

“They can have my sign; they can take it down over my dead body,” Kriso said. “They’re going to have to kill me to get that sign down. I mean that.”

OK, so he’s still very much a nutcase, but I don’t think this battle will ever come close to that kind of showdown. He has two very good legs to stand on both from a Freedom of Speech and a Freedom of Religion aspect and there’s not a whole lot of a counterargument I can foresee from the development folks that would override those basic rights.

15 thoughts on “Man refuses to take down his “Thank You Jesus” sign and he shouldn’t have to.

  1. I’ll have to side with you on this one as well, Les.  The guy bought the house, it’s his (well, really the bank’s) property, he should be allowed to put up any sign he wishes.  I also agree that he seems to be somewhat of a nutcase.

  2. Right on Les, I agree also.It’s on his property
    and he should be able to display that.Your take on this story is just one example of how open minded
    most people on SEB are,kinda like a fox guarding the
    hen house.

  3. You’re on the money as usual!

    You know, people really need to understand how the religious mind works. They have their “Persecution” sensors up way too high… when they’re told to remove signs (like in this case), the hyperbole and the “from my cold dead fingers” crap starts.

    We need to figure out how to talk to these people without tripping their “persecution” tripwire… you know, address them like scared little forest creatures or something.

  4. Based on the US Supreme Court decision of Marsh v Alabama on the rights and limits of Residential Community Associations (RCA) and other cases on the extent of private property such Hudgens v National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), if the park manager’s action does not run foul of the state-action theory, there is the possibility that such private property rights may ‘trump’ constitutional considerations on freedom of expression and religion because they are not subject to it as a private entity. Of course one needs to know the specific arrangement of the property and its bylaws to be certain.

    In other words, RCA as private entities are free to impose a ban on signs both outside and INSIDE of a home. Such posting restrictions are seen to be a reasonable restriction (Anelli v Arrowhead Lakes Community). But of course this is not exactly settled since while the rule may be reasonable courts may not allow enforcement of it on grounds that such a covenant is state action. However, statute could be passed to restrict RCA powers but only Florida has such a statute.

    Therefore, it all boils down to the specifics of the RCA and their bylaws and while he may have two good legs to stand on, private law may operate to cut it down.

  5. It’s hard enough to find a good place to live, and if some homeowner association has a rule that says he can’t express himself on his own property,  then the rule is wrong.  if they take the sign from him, the thing they pry from his cold dead fingers will be his first amendment rights.  Some things are more important than homeowner’s associations.

  6. DOF:

    Some things are more important than homeowner’s associations.

    I made it a point to find out what the homeowners assoc was like in my neighborhood before we bought our house.  Some homeowners assoc rules I would have considered deal breakers.

    Only problem is that some wannabe persecuted X-tians will use this as evidence that ALL of the liberals feel the same, instead of getting support from the liberals who are also appalled at this violation of the First Amendment.

    I wonder if the homeowner ever considered asking the ACLU for help.  Probably not – I bet somebody reading about it thinks the ACLU is behind the homeowner’s assoc.

  7. When you buy a home in an association, you also agree to abide by the association rules.  If you don’t like the rules, then you can either try to change the rules through the association with a vote or you can move somewhere else.  Without reading the bylaws of the association that this person lives in, I don’t think anyone really should be commenting.  You don’t have enough facts.

    I’m always amazed by people who move into associations and then think they can do whatever they want.  Then, when they are pointed out, they simply claim First Amendment rights.  It doesn’t work like that.

    Disclaimer: I live in an association.

  8. When you buy a home in an association, you also agree to abide by the association rules.

    As long as those rules don’t violate the law.  That’s the issue here – does the association’s decision violate the homeowner’s freedom of speech/religion, or is it more important to preserve the appearance (read as: property value) of the neighborhood. 

    Hell, I’m amazed by people who run associations b/c they think they can make the neighborhood look the way THEY want.  That’s why I checked the homeowner’s assoc out before I moved in – if it’s full of bullshit rules about grass height, overnight parking, blah, blah, blah, then I don’t want to live around people like that.  I know people who have the neighboorhood nazis that patrol around looking for little violations, measuring grass height, counting cars, etc.  My assoc basically exists to collect dues to pay landscapers to take care of the common areas.  Everything else is just city ordinances.

  9. Without reading the bylaws of the association that this person lives in, I don’t think anyone really should be commenting.  You don’t have enough facts.

    What kind of facts – like there’s a rule on page 15 that says he can’t have a sign in his window?  Screw that. Homeowner’s associations don’t trump the constitution.

    Some places it’s not easy to find a house.  Then you find one in just the right place and there’s some association that thinks they can do whatever they want, and say; “It’s in the contract.”  Their idea of heaven may be living in some kind of manicured Disneyland but they don’t own the other guy’s property and they sure as hell don’t own his right to free expression.

    And yes, he can claim his right to free speech in this case, because this is as clear an infringement as could possibly be.

    Disclaimer: it takes a bulldozer to get me to move an inch on free speech rights.  Somebody’s concerns about obviously political or religious speech “infringing” on their pretty neighborhood doesn’t amount to a snow shovel.  If they want to complain about the height of his grass or the number of cars, that is not a First amendment issue but this certainly is.

  10. The First Amendment does not apply to every situation especially not to private entities. Just as the First Amendment does not protect an employee from being fired for shouting at the boss or screaming at the clients, so too does the First Amendment not apply if the RCA is seen as a private entity.

    Perhaps I was being too careless in using the phrase “trumping of the constitution” because in reality this is more of a conflict between the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment.

    The Fourteenth Amendment prevents a person from be deprived of his property. Therefore, if the homeowner purchases the house subject to the RCA rules and restrictive covenants then his ownership cannot be considered as absolute. The RCA thus it is submitted retains certain proprietary rights, which was not transferred to the buyer and if the state allows such right to be ignored then the RCA would be deprived of its property.

    There are three things to take note for the above submissions. 1) State Action does not apply. If it appplies because the RCA is seen to be the Functional Equivalent of a State then the earlier limb of the Fourteenth Amendment would kick in. Thus the state (RCA) shall make any laws that abridge the privileges of the citizen. 2) If the rules are merely contractual rather than proprietary then it could be argued that Fourteenth Amendment may not apply. 3) Again to emphasis all this depends on the case specifics and the bylaws in question.

    For your convenience: First and Fourteenth Amendments.

    Amendment I
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Amendment XIV
    Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

  11. DOF: I wasn’t directing my comment at you, I just mistyped my quote attribution. 

    My point was just read the rules and know what you’re getting into.  Which, in this case, he doesn’t seem to be violating them.

    I don’t consider grass height and parking to be Constitutional issues.  Just that someone that anal doesn’t make for a good neighbor unless you’re just like them.

  12. It seems to boil down to this:

    Bill Kriso has been ordered to take down his Jesus sign.

    Is it right?

    Is it legal?

    And that, friends, is the problem with law.  Unfortunately inescapable.

  13. I dunno.. every ‘nam vet i ever met really does mean it when they say you ll have to either a) pry it from their cold dead hands or b)take it over their dead body…

    as for covenants in general I hate to sound a prick but I am currently living in Maryland; home of a million whiny bitches that hide behind bullshit community associations, crappy little marches and cry about how their feelings are hurt.  These folks have waaay too much fucking time on their hands. They actually feel quite justified and vindicated when they “legally” take your ass in court because your grass was too high. sometimes for 50+ thousand dollars. then all of their wives get together just to gossip about it like they are still in fucking high school.

    I intentionally selected a property in the balt/wash corridor that did NOT have a community association at all. Turns out this is a commodity now.  Homes are now listing for far more than the bullshit in a dainty version of perfect that everyone wanted in the fifties. Besides who wants to pay gossip club dues anymore? arent taxes enough?

    let him keep the sign.

  14. It is just amazing to me that a man in his own home can cause such a huge deal. Whether he has a pro-Jesus, pro-Satan, pro-turd nuggets, pro-choise,pro- any any other sign in his own window, who cares it is his window.

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