Residents of a condominium building in Florida have filed a federal complaint after the homeowner association board decided to ban Bible studies and other religious activities from the common spaces in the building.
First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on religious freedom, filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on behalf of residents at the Cambridge House Condominiums in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Cambridge House resident Donna Dunbar said that she has held Bible study groups in the building's common room every Monday morning for nearly a year. But on Feb. 6, the HOA board adopted a resolution saying "prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur ... in or upon any of the common elements."
Additionally, the board reportedly ordered the removal of all religious items from the building's premises, including a decorative angel fountain and a statue of St. Francis of Assisi donated by a resident, in memory of a loved one.
Dunbar, a lay minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, also noted that someone had placed a sign on the community organ saying, "any and all Christian music is banned!" She said that before the HOA board banned all religious activities, she was asked to get insurance so that she could continue using the common room for Bible study.
The complaint asserts that the board's actions violate federal housing laws because it targets religion for exclusion. While all religious activities are banned from the common areas, game and movie nights are reportedly still being allowed. First Liberty is asking for HUD too conduct an investigation into the matter and take all appropriate actions.
The religious liberty law firm stated in the complaint that the HOA board had not notified the residents about the meeting in which the policy banning all religious activities was approved.
"The board's failure to include the Cambridge House resolution in the posted meeting agenda or otherwise notify the condominium owners of the proposed resolution constitutes a violation of [Florida law]," the complaint stated, as reported by Christian News Network.
The letter pointed out that the lack of notice about the meeting has left some interested condominium owners with no opportunity to speak out against the proposed resolution.
"The Cambridge House resolution, both in text and in application, is discriminatory and violates the Fair Housing Act because it prohibits ... Christian residents from accessing common condominium areas for any religious activity, while allowing other residents to use those same facilities for similar secular purposes," it continued.
The Gateway Group, the company that manages Cambridge House, has stated that it acts in the direction of the HOA and has declined to provide further comment on the issue.