The owner of an upstate New York cafe was told to remove her “God Bless America” sign by town officials.
Jennifer Aquino, owner of the 5 Mile Cafe in Penfield, put a sign up outside of her restaurant that reads “God Bless America” to show her love for America.
Aquino appealed to the town board to hang a banner from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July, but the town of Penfield has a strict policy on banners, which says that business owners can only hang banners for three weeks out of the year.
Despite being denied her request, Aquino said she decided to hang the sign after the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, which left 49 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,” Aquino told Fox News, according to Newsday. “So I put it up.”
Soon after the banner was put up, Aquino received an email from town officials, telling her that she must take down the sign or pay a fine for violating the town’s policy. She refused.
“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 said. “I just can’t believe that I can’t have this banner up and be supported by the town board.”
Aquino shared a post about the incident on her Facebook page.
“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.”
Following Aquino’s Facebook post, the town released a statement, which said that the banner’s message is not the reason that it had to be taken down.
“The message ‘God bless America’ on the banner has never been, and is not, an issue,” the town wrote on its Facebook page. “The Town of Penfield is a patriotic community with many long-standing traditions that support its heritage, veterans, and country.”
Following the controversy, Aquino’s business received tons of support from the community and some supporters even offered to pay the fines she would owe for continuing to hang the banner.
Ultimately, Aquino was granted permission to keep the banner up by the town of Penfield.
“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!”
Sources: Newsday, AWM / Photo Credit: Facebook via AWM