Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Homeowners Association Backs Down

I just got an email from the Thomas More Law Center. Apparently the family in Novi that was being told to take down their nativity scene contacted them and they threatened the HOA with a lawsuit. The HOA backed down and told them they don’t have to take it down. Doesn’t much matter to me either way, but that’s what happened.

Update: The Detroit News is reporting about it and some of the article is quite amusing. Like this guy:

Anthony J. Dickow lives in the same Tollgate Woods subdivision as the Samona family and says the story has “stirred my blood and I am outraged!”

“Let’s say I wasn’t a big fan of Halloween. Why the heck was my neighborhood decorated with all of that nonsense? I didn’t see anyone complaining about that!…. I’m so mad, I plan on going to Wal-Mart after work, buying the largest most elaborate nativity scene and placing it on my front lawn!” Dickow said.

Oh, don’t buy it from Walmart. Walmart is evil because they don’t say “Merry Christmas” in their ads. If you buy from Walmart, Bill O’Reilly is gonna be very angry. Remember, stores not saying “Merry Christmas” are committing “hate crimes against Christianity.” Pat Buchanan says so.

Rachel Korth of Chesterfield Township said she would be doing the same.

“I’m totally outraged that this association is asking this family to do this,” Korth said. “It’s very, very disturbing that we live in a country that was founded on Christian principles and there is such a war going on that is trying to destroy those principles.”

Same old empty rhetoric. Wanna bet this woman couldn’t name a single “Christian principle” that is found in the Constitution? But here’s my favorite part:

On Nov. 21 the family received a letter asking them to remove the nativity scene but said nothing about the other numerous figures on the lawn, including a holiday Minnie Mouse and Winnie the Pooh along with a Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Jesus, these people must be going for a world record in tackiness. Hey, let’s add a few lawn jockeys as well. Still, it’s nice to see an HOA get told to go to hell.

Comments

  1. #1 Dan
    November 30, 2005

    What’s the over – under on how long it takes Thomas More to publish a press release proclaiming victory in its never-ending fight to save Christianity and, with it, the First Amendment? I say within the next 15 minutes.

    In reality, I’m sure the HOA backed down for pragmatic reasons: it could not afford, or didn’t want to spend, the thousands of dollars that would have been involved in defending Thomas More’s frivolous lawsuit. If this was anything other than a private dispute, ACLU or AU might take some interest, and then we’d have ourselves a fair fight. As it is, though, Thomas More knows it can claim a win with little likelihood of a challenge. I suppose a hollow victory is better than none at all.

  2. #2 Mike P
    November 30, 2005

    I am planning to get a rubber stamp made with with this quote: “Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” I sincerely doubt anyone at the HOA was anti-Christmas. They were simply blindly following their rules.

  3. #3 Ginger Yellow
    December 1, 2005

    “Let’s say I wasn’t a big fan of Halloween. Why the heck was my neighborhood decorated with all of that nonsense? I didn’t see anyone complaining about that!…. I’m so mad, I plan on going to Wal-Mart after work, buying the largest most elaborate nativity scene and placing it on my front lawn!” Dickow said.”

    When I first read that I assumed it was a protest against the people who put the nativity scene (and the other hideous lawn ornaments) up in the first place. I guess I overestimated the guy.

  4. #4 raj
    December 1, 2005

    I frankly don’t understand the legal basis for the homeowner association’s determination. They apparently allowed some lawn ornaments, but objected to the nativity. Unless there was something in the deed covenants prohibiting use of religious symbols as lawn ornaments (which religious symbols would be difficult to define) it seems to me that, if the homeowner association would need to allow all types of lawn ornaments.

  5. #5 raj
    December 1, 2005

    I frankly don’t understand the legal basis for the homeowner association’s determination. They apparently allowed some lawn ornaments, but objected to the nativity. Unless there was something in the deed covenants prohibiting use of religious symbols as lawn ornaments (which religious symbols would be difficult to define) it seems to me that, if the homeowner association would need to allow all types of lawn ornaments.

  6. #6 Phillip J. Birmingham
    December 2, 2005

    I frankly don’t understand the legal basis for the homeowner association’s determination. They apparently allowed some lawn ornaments, but objected to the nativity. Unless there was something in the deed covenants prohibiting use of religious symbols as lawn ornaments (which religious symbols would be difficult to define) it seems to me that, if the homeowner association would need to allow all types of lawn ornaments.

    Where I live, the covenants state quite clearly that failure to enforce a provision in one instance does not bar its enforcement in other instances.

  7. #7 raj
    December 4, 2005

    Phillip J. Birmingham at December 2, 2005 12:13 PM

    The covenants themselves might state that, but, in order for the courts to get the covenants enforced the HOAs would have to go to court. One of the reasons that courts decades ago refused to enforce restrictive covenants based on race or religion (particularly race) was that the courts determined that enforcement by the courts would have been unconstitutional.

    I don’t have a citation, but I recall that from constitutional law 30+ years ago.

    I recognize that there is a bit of a difference between race&religion on one hand and speech on the other, but I’m not sure that I would draw too much from that bit.

  8. #8 Phillip J. Birmingham
    December 4, 2005

    The covenants themselves might state that, but, in order for the courts to get the covenants enforced the HOAs would have to go to court. One of the reasons that courts decades ago refused to enforce restrictive covenants based on race or religion (particularly race) was that the courts determined that enforcement by the courts would have been unconstitutional.

    That’s a good point, but (keep in mind that I am not a lawyer) I suspect that the courts were choking on the discriminatory aspect of these covenants. The lawn display cases almost certainly would work out similarly if the HOA allowed creches and banned menorahs, or vice versa. How it would work if they allowed nonreligious displays only, is not so clear.

    I have mixed feelings about the HOA backing down. On one hand, I really dislike restrictive covenants, although admittedly this is not an absolute dislike; if the neighborhood is nice enough and the covenants sufficiently non-restrictive, I’ll take the tradeoff. On the other hand, I really dislike the idea of people agreeing to restrictive covenants and then suing whenever they, you know, restrict.

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