BARTOW (FBW)—A local dispute over “God Bless America” yard signs ended peacefully Oct. 7 when the Mayor of Bartow told residents they could keep their signs in place despite notes from code enforcements officers the week prior telling them to remove the signs or face fines.
Marvin Pittman, a deacon and adult Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church in Bartow told Florida Baptist Witness the signs were distributed by the church July 4 and in one neighborhood “almost everyone had one,” according to Pittman.
Bartow Code Enforcement in mid-September began to issue citations throughout Bartow in mid-September, code, citing violations stemming from a 13-year old city ordinance Pittman said is “vague and “is very poorly worded.
Pittman, president of the Florida Baptist State Board of Missions and a retired member of law enforcement who served for 42 years, told the Witness the ordinance “probably wouldn’t stand judicial muster.” He also said he believed the ordinance may violate the first and fourth amendments if enforced (See the original story online at http://gofbw.com/news.asp?ID=15512).
The mayor, according to an ABC news report, told residents city leaders had received death threats and hate mail after the controversy went public and at a city commissioner’s meeting Oct. 7 said the ordinance is under review and will be rewritten.
What may have started with “good intentions” could have “unintended consequences,” Pittman said. “The county commissioners said they have the responsibility to protect people from the law in some cases.”
“What’s right’s right,” Pittman said. “Sometimes we make mistakes and that’s what we are taking up with right now.”
Hopefully commissioners will “step back” and appoint some individuals to work out a solution. “I’m just tired of folks who can tell people what they can and can’t do.”
Pittman, a chaplain for the Polk County Sheriff’s Department for the past 10 years, said the town’s dilemma apparently has “gone viral” as concerned citizens all over the United States are clamoring for information.
“It started as just a good Christian thing to do,” he said of the signs.
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