Liberty Counsel Fights Religious Intolerance from Florida Home Owners' Association

Sep 18, 2014

Kissimmee, FL--When Enock and Ines Berluche, homeowners at the Shingle Creek Reserve at the Oaks in Central Florida, were told to remove the religious statues in their yard or face “legal action,” the couple reached out to Liberty Counsel.

In a neighborhood where lawn ornaments are the rule not the exception, the homeowners’ association permits statues of life-size human skulls, 4’ Greek topless women, and yard gnomes, but the 2’ tall statues of the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus are “in violation of the covenants and restrictions for the Community,” according to a letter from the homeowner’s association attorney.

Perhaps the prime example of the association’s hubris and intolerance is the neighborhood’s “Yard of the Month.” Standing beside the “Yard of the Month” sign (a violation of the no sign rule) are two large Greek statues, a 4’ water fountain, a donkey sculpture, a flamingo, a cherub, as well as a large cement bird bath, a couple of ornamental planters, and three decorative sculptures attached to the front of the house. In total, the “Yard of the Month” has thirteen potential violations of the homeowners’ association rules on yard ornaments.

“Why all of these ornaments are approved but Mr. and Mrs. Berluche’s statues were denied is clearly a matter of viewpoint discrimination,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “This is Liberty Counsel’s mission: to defend the common man against government tyranny. Whether it is a homeowners’ association, public school, or city council, governing agencies cannot violate a citizen’s First Amendment rights,” Staver said.

In addition, the attorney asked the homeowner to “provide the Association in writing the stated religion, the religious significance of the statues, and why these statues cannot be relocated to a different location on the Lot or enclosed behind a fence out of street view.”

“The Association's practice of approving (or turning a blind eye to unapproved) non-religious yard decor, while scrutinizing and rejecting applications for approval of yard decor that may be religious and asking intrusive questions regarding religious belief is religious discrimination,” Liberty Counsel said in a letter to the homeowners’ association attorney.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.



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