Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Honoring war dead now a crime
By Paul Rolly
Salt Lake Tribune
June 20, 2005
Since Mike Norton, of Layton, began displaying the pictures of American soldiers killed in Iraq on an illuminated sign in his front yard, his home has been vandalized, cars have stopped in front of his home and honked horns in the early morning hours and he has received anonymous harassing phone calls.
Now the city of Layton has gotten into the act.
Norton, who was told by a city official last winter that the sign in his yard did not violate zoning ordinances, received a letter from the Layton City Attorney's Office recently informing him that, upon further review, the sign does violate the ordinance and he would have 10 days to take it down.
The sign currently contains 1,715 postage-stamp-sized pictures of each dead soldier that Norton downloads from CNN's Web site. The number is updated whenever there is a new casualty. Above the pictures is a large bold-faced headline denoting the latest number of Americans killed in Iraq. Next to the sign is an American flag.
Norton says that by day, many people, including veterans, stop by and thank him for keeping the sacrifices of the soldiers and their families in the public eye. But by night he is harassed by anonymous antagonists, including one who shined a spotlight into his 6-year-old daughter's window.
The letter, from Layton Assistant City Attorney Stephen Garside, said the city inspector who told Norton six months ago that his sign was OK used the wrong code section in reviewing the sign.
Norton responded by telling the city to cite him, because he could find nothing in the code to indicate a violation and, he noted, the city code specifically exempts memorials. His sign is a memorial to the soldiers.
Norton has obtained an attorney and is prepared to fight. "I will go to jail before I will pay a fine for displaying a sign that honors the war dead," he said. http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_2812530