free speech

The US Constitution is an amazing construct that allows many freedoms; however, community associations CAN impose limitations on certain forms of speech that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment between the people and our government; however, it is generally not the place for any individual or an association Board to attempt to censor speech or dictate what individuals say. Read Always Ask "WHY?": Are Empathy and Reason YOUR Stars and Stripes?

There are, of course, certain reasonable limits on the freedom of expression permissible in different forums. Our confidentiality and disclosure page discusses WA Statute RCW 64.90.445(2)(b) which permits the Board to limit attendance for persons who disrupt a meeting. Below is an example of a fair and balanced rule to govern the use of an internal message board forum.

It is not the Association’s practice to moderate content, so always use common sense when posting and be respectful of others. The following types of content are expressly prohibited:

  • Bullying and harassment

  • Cruel and insensitive language likely to cause emotional, physical and/or psychological harm

  • Graphic and/or violent depictions

  • Hate speech, credible threats and/or personal attacks

  • Incitement of violence

  • Information you know to be false and/or misleading, including the dissemination of false news

  • Profanity

  • Schemes intended to deceive and/or defraud

  • Solicitations for criminal activity and/or illegal substances

  • Spam (abusing our electronic system to artificially increase viewership such as posting the same or significantly similar content repeatedly more than once a week or and/or repeatedly distributing content for commercial and/or personal gain)

  • Correcting factual and/or grammatical error(s) in your posted content is not considered spam

  • Suicide and self-injury

  • Topics and/or images of a sexually explicit nature

  • Violations of privacy

Signs, Flags & Symbols

Carefully consider WHY when prohibiting and/or attempting to limit and/or prohibit free speech and the display of flags and signs.

Colorado signed House Bill 21-1310 into law on July 2, 2021. The gist: common interest communities in Colorado cannot prohibit the display of signs or flags except under specific circumstances such as those displaying commercial messages and by regulating the number, location, size and other "objective" factors. Read the final bill.

RCW 64.90.510 includes language which may be representative of how a Washington State court would rule related to the display of political signs and symbols:

(1) An association may not prohibit display of the flag of the United States, or the flag of Washington state, on or within a unit or a limited common element, except that an association may adopt reasonable restrictions pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the association. For purposes of this section, "flag of the United States" means the flag of the United States as described in 4 U.S.C. Sec. 1 et seq. that is made of fabric, cloth, or paper. "Flag of the United States" does not mean a flag, depiction, or emblem made of lights, paint, roofing, siding, paving materials, flora, or balloons, or of any similar building, landscaping, or decorative components.

(2) The association may not prohibit display of signs regarding candidates for public or association office, or ballot issues, on or within a unit or limited common element, but the association may adopt rules governing the time, place, size, number, and manner of those displays.

Laws such as these are extensions of rulings such as Congine vs. Crivitz involving display of the flag of the United States upside down, that have consistently upheld constitutionally protected free speech under the First Amendment.