Read the Fine Print: Mezuzot and Condo Associations
The city of Chicago is made up of seventy seven community areas. Anywhere from zero to hundreds of condos are available within these communities to be filled up by renters. Each condominium association has their own unique set of rules to create consistency within their buildings. Granted some rules are necessary such as no smoking in your home or making sure all emergency exits are accessible at all times, however forbidding the expression of one’s religious practices is simply not fair. One specific instance of religious discrimination within condo associations are with the display of Mezuzot, which is Hebrew for doorpost and is a piece of parchment inscribed with verses form the Torah.
One’s religious beliefs can be a part of one’s identity and is a protected class of the Fair Housing act. Further, the constitution states that, every individual has their choice of what and who they believe in. Multiple cases have appeared where those of the Jewish religion have been threatened to be evicted because they have chosen to place a mezuzah above a door entrance. One of the most recent cases was in 2011 when the Bloch family sued the Shoreline Towers Association in Chicago for constantly removing there mezuzah from their doorway. In the Jewish faith, this sacred piece of parchment is placed above one’s door way and has a scripture from the torah written on it. According to the association, in 2001 they stated in their rules for homeowners that no one was allowed to have anything above their doorway. Ultimately, the court’s decision was left for an appeal. The case would now be decided by a jury trial for the final decision. Since this law suit, both the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago have passed laws protecting the display of religious objects in the home.
There is no great way to filter though a home owner’s association rule book other than to read each section. Each state, city, and town has their own individual policies about what is allowed and what is not allowed in the particular building. If you are a condo dweller residing in Illinois, make sure that this violation is not taking place within your association for the sake of your rights and to prevent legal issues that can take place for your condo association. If you live outside of the region, condo associations should still recognize this fair housing right. Not only will you comply with the law, but the law also enables residents to feel accepted by their neighbors. The acceptance of residents fosters community and encourages the retention of condo owners.
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By Kathryn Miner, Fair Housing Policy Intern