An upstate New York cafe was told to take down its “God Bless America” sign by town officials last week.
Jennifer Aquino, owner of 5 Mile Cafe in Penfield, put up the sign at her establishment to showcase her patriotism.
Aquino wanted to hang the banner from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July, so she appealed to the town board, according to Fox News. There was only one problem: Penfield has a strict policy on banners. Business owners can hang banners for only three weeks of the year.
Aqunio had already used her allotment and was denied an extension by the board. She then hung the sign inside her cafe until last month's mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured.
“I decided on my way to work that I was going to put it up regardless of the town telling me I couldn’t,” she told Fox News. “So I put it up.”
Soon, she received an email from town officials telling her to remove the sign or face a fine for violating the town ordinance.
The sign wasn’t removed.
“The [message on the banner] means a lot to me — especially during this time in our country with all that’s going on with terrorism,” she told Fox News. “I just can’t believe that I can’t have this banner up and be supported by the town board.”
Aquino turned to Facebook to voice her concerns.
“My flying this banner was simply me using a platform (MY business) to show support for our country during such an unbelievable time of terror,” she wrote. “This “code” needs to change when it is violating our constitutional right to freedom of speech.”
After Aquino’s Facebook post, the town released a board statement on July 1 clarifying its position on the banner issue.
According to the statement, signs with ideological statements have always been permitted in town. The issue stems from the “how and when the physical banner can be used according to town code.”
“The message “God bless America” on the banner has never been, and is not, an issue,” the town wrote on its Facebook page, adding that it supports the message and the sentiment. “The Town of Penfield is a patriotic community with many long-standing traditions that support its heritage, veterans, and country.”
Aquino received support and backlash on social media, but public sentiment won the debate.
“So glad you got your banner but the entire board should be voted out for being control freaks and maybe live in a country that wasn't founded on freedom of speech like ours was. Crazy,” Facebook user Rose Dale Koslap said.
“So when will you be running for town council so you can change the law you think you don't have to follow?” Jonathan Carr said.
The town ultimately gave Aquino the permission to leave the banner up.
“It’s unfortunate that it took national news coverage for the Town of Penfield to grant my wish to hang a “God bless America” banner outside my cafe,” Aquino wrote on Facebook. “I’m so grateful this banner will be flying!”