- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2012

Old Glory 1, Bureaucracy 0.

Facing a national uproar and the ire of a hometown U.S. senator, Massachusetts housing authorities have stepped in to revoke a day-old policy in the town of Wrentham banning displays of the U.S. flag by residents in public housing projects.

Jason Lefferts, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, said in a statement provided to The Washington Times on Thursday that state housing authorities “were not aware of this decision when it was made, and it was a mistake that is being corrected immediately.”

Mr. Lefferts said the department’s policy for local housing authorities in the state covers permissible displays of private materials in public areas but added, “This does not extend to respectful and safe displays of the American flag.”

Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown, a Wrentham resident, was one of those who protested the order Wednesday by the Wrentham Housing Authority to ban the flag displays in common areas, an order issued apparently in response to one tenant’s repeated complaints.

“I was deeply disturbed to learn of this misguided decision, and I call on the responsible authorities to undo this regulation immediately,” Mr. Brown said in a statement posted on his campaign website.

Residents of the Garden Lane project in Wrentham learned of the flag edict in an unsigned notice from the Wrentham Housing Authority on Wednesday. The notice said displaying the flag in the residence’s common area was a violation of state housing policy.

“Flags may be visible through the apartment windows, but may not be displayed on the exterior of the buildings or on the ground around the buildings,” according to the notice.

The notice was sparked by a complaint delivered to the Department of Housing and Community Development on June 25 from an unnamed tenant who did not want flags displayed in the common areas.

Barbara Marshall, an 82-year-old resident of Garden Lane, called the policy “unbelievable,” according to an account of the controversy in the local Sun Chronicle newspaper. “I’ve always had a flag. My family is so indebted to the veterans, to that flag.”

Ms. Marshall cited the important role veterans have played in her family’s history - from her brothers landing in Normandy on D-Day to her work in veterans’ homeless shelters.

Ms. Marshall went on to say she had no intention of taking down her flag and would take pictures of anyone who tried to do so.

Nancy Siegel, the executive director for the Wrentham Housing Authority, said notices were taped to residents doors Wednesday and that it was standard policy for them to be unsigned.

Upon hearing the Department of Housing and Community Development statement, Ms. Siegel was “thrilled” the policy was being revoked and said that the housing authority would never have implemented the policy but was instructed to do so from department headquarters in Boston.

Among those protesting the ban was state Rep. Daniel B. Winslow, a Republican who served as chief legal counsel to Mitt Romney when the presumptive GOP presidential nominee was governor of Massachusetts. In an interview, Mr. Winslow said he was “outraged” by the notice and immediately began calling state authorities to have the policy rescinded.

Mr. Winslow even traveled to Garden Lane and began handing out American flags to residents. He described the residents as “frightened” but “defiant.”

Mr. Winslow said the person who implemented the policy was “clearly incompetent, showing a complete lack of judgment and should immediately be replaced” - preferably, he said, by a military veteran.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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