Man faces eviction for keeping religious sign up

Posted at 3:26 PM, Jan 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 11:03:00-05

A Bradenton man is facing eviction from his mobile home park because he refuses to remove a religious sign from his van.

As a former missionary, Michael Lombardi has helped solve problems all over the world. But now, he's facing one of his biggest battles here at home.

"Allow me to have the right to believe," he said.

Board members within the County Retreat Mobile Home Park may soon force him out because he refuses to remove the words "Jesus is coming! Are you ready?" with a phone number, Lombardi said. The words are hand-written out on the sides of the windows and doors with temporary paint.

The community is starting to enforce new rules that do not allow temporary signage to be displayed.

But Lombardi uses his van to provide food to the hungry and homeless throughout Manatee County and he says he shouldn't have to remove the lettering.

When he opens the van, it's full of supplies from a local food bank.

"There's some flour and aloe," Lombardi said. "We never know what we're going to get every single week."

Lombardi said he gets calls for help every week because people are able to read the number on the window. He said he got a phone call from a young heroin addict seeking assistance just before our cameras started rolling.

"Here's a young woman, that has no place to turn in Manatee County, and she has to read a phone number off the side of a van," Lombardi said.

ABC Action News spoke to park leaders today off camera. They said they don't have a problem with what the signs says but that they just don't like the way it looks. Instead, they want it to be professionally done

ABC Action News also consulted a local attorney, who said Lombardi most likely has little recourse. Lombardi owns his mobile home, but continues to rent the land it sits on. As he does not own the land his home sits on, most likely, he will have to comply with property rules, said Stephen Crawford, a Tampa-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.

But Lombardi said he regularly likes to change the wording of the sign, likes to make them himself and doesn't want to make professional changes.

"Everybody reads my signs because it is totally different," he said.

For now, he said he has no plans to leave until forced.