Florida City Orders 'God Bless America' Signs Removed; Baptist Church Had Given Residents Signs

The city of Bartow in Florida has ordered residents to remove "God Bless America" signs from their front lawns by Monday or allegedly pay fines. The signs violate a 13-year-old ordinance, the city says.

City of Bartow Code Enforcement has asked residents to remove the signs by Monday or pay a minimum fine of $25 a day, according to local Fox 13.

The First Baptist Church of Bartow distributed some 300 signs to residents after a Fourth of July celebration. And those who continue to display the signs in their lawns are shocked by the city's move.

"I personally feel if it were on a city right-of-way, they would have a right to remove it. But this is my yard that I'm paying the taxes on. It's my right," said another resident, Emmett Purvis.

City Manager George Long sought to assure the residents that the ban was not to target a particular message. "It is clear that some recipients of the notices have interpreted them as an indication that their message of 'God Bless America' is in violation of city code," Long said in a statement late Friday. "This interpretation is not the case or the intent of the city. Instead, the issue is and remains the sign type – not the message."

Speaking to TheBlaze, Bartow Code Enforcement Director Gregg Lamb denied that his office would impose penalties as it does not have the authority to enforce them. "We were just hoping for some cooperation and understanding about the ordinance," he was quoted as saying.

Residents are likely to submit a petition for a waiver from the ordinance when a Bartow City Commission meeting is held on Monday night.