Can homeowner association bar worship at its clubhouse?

Until 2004 the Savanna Club Worship Service Inc. conductedits worship services in the Savanna Homeowners Association clubhouse or commonareas. But the homeowner association received numerous complaints from itsmembers regarding use of the common areas for religious services.

One of the reasons for the complaints was such usage wascontrary to the stated purpose of making the common areas available for use andenjoyment of the members of the association.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

After receiving numerous complaints, the associationconducted an informal vote of its members. They voted 714 to 434 to prohibitreligious services in their common areas.

As a result, the association adopted a rule that “Noportion of the common areas of Savanna Club may be used for any religiousservice.”

Following enactment of the rule, the worship club continuedholding its services. But the homeowner association filed a court petition formediation. Following mediation, the club stopped holding its religious servicesin the common areas.

The worship club then brought this lawsuit against theSavanna Club Homeowners Association, alleging the rule barring religiousservices violates the federal Fair Housing Act.

If you were the judge would you rule the homeownerassociation rule barring religious services in the common areas violates theFair Housing Act?

The judge said no!

The evidence shows the homeowner association rule has beenapplied evenly, and no religious group has been allowed to use the common areasfor its religious services, the judge began. Although the worship club hasstanding to sue, it failed to present any evidence of violation of the FairHousing Act or any other law, he continued.

Savanna Club is a unique planned community, the judgeexplained. Its common areas are open to all its members, and there is noevidence of any religious or other discrimination involving purchase or use ofresidences within the community, he noted.

The worship club has not presented any evidence ofdiscrimination, the judge emphasized, because all religious groups areprohibited from holding services in the common areas. “The right toreligious freedom must encompass the right to be free from religion,” headded.

The Fair Housing Act imposes no “reasonableaccommodation” requirement in the context of religious discrimination, thejudge ruled. Because the challenged rule of the homeowner association has beenapplied equally to all religions, there is no Fair Housing Act violation, andthe worship club is not entitled to use the common areas, the judge concluded.

Based on the U.S. District Court decision in Savanna ClubWorship Service Inc. v. Savanna Club Homeowners Association Inc., 456Fed.Supp.2d 1223.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

Copyright 2007 Inman News

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