July 13, 2011
Mezuzah case goes to federal court in Chicago
A federal trial involving a condo association that removed mezuzahs from residents’ doorposts opened in Chicago.
According to the law firm Much Shelist, which is representing the plaintiffs on a pro bono basis, the dispute is between Shoreline Towers condominium association in Chicago and residents of the building who say their mezuzahs were repeatedly removed from outside their doors by the association. A building rule adopted in 2001 prohibits “objects of any sort” outside the entrances to residents’ units.
Ironically, one of the plaintiffs chaired the committee that drafted that rule.
The plaintiffs, who are from two separate families living in the building, say they tried to resolve the issue directly with the board, but eventually filed complaints of religious discrimination with the city’s Commission on Human Relations, the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the state’s attorney general.
Since then, both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois have passed laws protecting the display of religious objects on residential property, but those laws are not retroactive.
The case, which is being tried before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and opened Monday, will also invoke the Fair Housing Act, which plaintiffs’ attorneys say is quite rare.
A similar case in Texas led to a state bill signed June 17 requiring homeowner associations to permit religious displays on residents’ doors, including mezuzahs. Florida passed a similar law in 2008.