A Florida woman has filed a federal lawsuit after her condominium complex told her she couldn’t host her Bible study or play Christian music in the common area.
The religious liberty law firm First Liberty Institute sent a letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson last week, explaining the situation and demanding action.
Donna Dunbar, a lay minister with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award from former President Barack Obama, told WFTX-TV that her condo in Port Charlotte, Florida, is too small for her nine-person study, so they use the complex’s common area.
“We study the Bible and sing some karaoke songs,” she explained.
But on Feb. 6, the Cambridge House Board — without any warning — passed a resolution stating, “Prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur … in or upon any of the common elements.”
The board also allegedly demanded the removal of all religious paraphernalia from the building’s premises, including a decorative angel foundation and a statue of a Catholic saint, according to WVIR-TV.
In the complaint, First Liberty described the board’s decision as “discriminatory” and in violation of the Fair Housing Act “because it prohibits Mrs. Dunbar and other Christian residents from accessing common condominium areas for any religious activity, while allowing other residents to use those same facilities for similar non-secular purposes.”
Nevertheless, the lay minister received a letter from Gateway Management, informing her she must cease and desist her Bible study by Feb. 16, Fox News reported.
Dunbar said someone placed a sign on the piano that read, “Any and all Christian music is banned!”
Lea Patterson, a judicial fellow at First Liberty Institute, said, “The unequal treatment of citizens in the community simply out of hostility to religion violates federal law and the First Amendment.
“We are confident,” she continued, “that Secretary Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will resolve this issue quickly.”