There’s nothing that angers an HOA board or management company more than the discovery that a homeowner believes in Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Well, I take it back, any expression of belief in Judaism also pops their gaskets.
Enock and Ines Berluche, a couple in the Shingle Creek Reserve in Kissimmee, Florida have been battling their HOA over the past year because the HOA says it doesn’t allow yard statuary. You couldn’t tell that by driving through the neighborhood, of course. Lots of homeowners violate the “no yard art” rule with garden frogs, cherubs and statues of Greek goddesses showing (can I say it?) bare boobs. There was even an ‘illegal’ fountain on the lawn of the HOA president.
But when a new homeowner requested permission to put up small statues of The Virgin Mary and Jesus they were denied.
After media publicity and threats of discrimination lawsuits the Shingle Creek Reserve board finally got religion. They reversed themselves and allowed Mary and Jesus to stay. The only tragic part of the story is that the couple had to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees just to assert their rights. But that’s the story with most HOAs. It’s not about the rules or rights. It’s all about harrassment and humiliation of homeowners who don’t toe the line.
(link to statuary story on WFTV, Florida)
HOAs commonly create conflict over yard statutes, Ward, and also over religious holiday displays.
This time, the HOA had to back down. But as we can see from this letter from Berluches’ legal counsel https://www.liberty.edu/media/9980/attachments/091814_Ltr_-_to_Ozim_and_HOA_re_Berluche.pdf
the reason the HOA had to acquiesce probably had nothing to do with their respect of Constitutional or Fair Housing rights.
If you read between the lines, the real problem for the Association was that they had a history of not following their own rules. They allowed other statues (see photos in the link), perhaps without formal approval. Therefore, they were compelled to allow religious statues.
If you read attorney and management company blogs and forums on aesthetic issues, the “expert” always advises the HOA to consistently enforce each rule, otherwise the HOA might lose its authority to enforce that rule. That is the reason you often see HOAs taking a hard line with enforcement of very specific, picky rules. For example: Only white holiday lights allowed from December 1- Jan 8.
The implication is that HOAs might actually get away with prohibiting religious statues IF they prohibit ALL statues and lawn ornaments.
We have the same issue over the American flag, and the only reason HOA residents can now display the flag at all is because of Federal intervention that compelled states to comply. BUT…in their infinite wisdom, legislators have granted authority to HOAs to come up with arbitrary and sometimes ridiculous rules about the MANNER OF DISPLAY. That is why we have Larry Murphree being harassed and targeted for foreclosure over his daring act of displaying a small American flag in a flower pot at his front entry.
And, as usual, Florida is the “leader” in creation of high drama by blowing minor aesthetic issues out of proportion.
A special THANK YOU to investigative reporter, Deneige Broom! We need more journalists that cover these HOA stories. The power and pressure of the media has a tendency to scare some sense into board members. Not always, but it never hurts to expose the bullies!