A Florida woman is filing a federal lawsuit after board members at her condominium complex informed her that she was forbidden from hosting Bible studies or playing worship music in the common area. Religious liberty law firm First Liberty Institute sent a letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson last week, explaining the situation and demanding urgent action.
Donna Dunbar, a lay minister with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, told WFTX-TV that her apartment is too small for her nine-person Bible study, so they use the complex’s common area.
“We study the Bible and sing some karaoke songs,” she explained.
That didn’t go down too well with the Cambridge House Board, who, without warning, passed a resolution stating, “Prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur … in or upon any of the common elements.” The board also allegedly demanded the immediate removal of all religious paraphernalia from the building’s premises.
First Liberty’s complaint letter to HUD Secretary Carson detailed that other groups were allowed to gather in the common room and argued that the ruling against the assembly of Christians was discriminatory:
“The unequal treatment of citizens in the community simply out of hostility to religion violates federal law and the First Amendment,” Lea Patterson, a judicial fellow at Liberty Institute, said. “We are confident that Secretary Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will resolve this issue quickly.”
“The federal Fair Housing Act doesn’t allow a condo association like this to allow people to meet on secular topics, but not to meet on religious topics,” First Liberty Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Dys said.
“The Cambridge House Resolution, both in text and in application, is discriminatory and violates the Fair Housing Act because it prohibits Mrs. Dunbar and other Christian residents from accessing common condominium areas for any religious activity, while allowing other residents to use those same facilities for similar non-secular purposes,” attorney Adam Foslid wrote in the complaint.
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes said that the case is a “slam dunk” for the building’s religious residents.
“If management allows residents to play poker in the social room, they should also allow folks to hold a Bible study,” he wrote.
“I rely on God for everything,” Dunbar said of the controversy. “This is my home, this is my community.”