On February 6, a retirement community in Port Charlotte, Florida, named Cambridge House passed a resolution “regarding religious observances on the common elements.” While that may sound generic, residents are on the warpath against they see as an egregious violation of Florida law and the freedom of speech and religion!
The resolution reads: “Prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur at meetings of the Association and shall not occur in or upon any of the common elements.” This resolution quickly lead to what was described as “the religious cleansing of the entire condo association.” Decorative crosses were removed from their doors, a donated memorial statue of St. Francis of Assisi was removed, and even a decorative angel fountain was removed from the courtyard. Perhaps most disturbing was a sign found on the community piano: “Any and all Christian music is banned” it read.
Residents decided not to let the association get away with such discrimination. The First Liberty Institute, a law firm specializing in religious liberty, is now representing the residents. They have filed a Fair Housing Act complaint on behalf of one resident, named Donna Dunbar. A devout Christian and lay leader for the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Dunbar hosted weekly ladies’ Bible study in the social room. They sang songs, prayed, and participate in study books. Many other groups use the room for social game and movie nights as well, however Dunbar was suddenly required by the association’s treasurer to obtain insurance in order to continue her meetings! She obtained the policy, and even then she received a letter from the property management company ordering her to cease and desist the Bible study. “The result of [the Association] resolution prohibits Bible Study meetings in the social room,” the letter read.
This is absolutely outrageous! It goes to show the boldness with which public displays of faith are now attacked – even in our retirement homes. The religious residents’ defense wisely recognizes that this Cambridge House resolution “is discriminatory and violates the Fair Housing Act.”
We hope this religious liberty case proves to be a sure thing in court, and a big win for the church ladies.