Previous Ruling Overturned, Case Awaits Trial Court
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, applauded the ruling issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in favor of Orthodox Jewish apartment owners in Chicago whose condominium association had temporarily banned them from affixing a mezuzah to their apartment doorpost.
The case arose when Shoreline Towers adopted a rule banning materials of various kinds outside of tenants’ doors. The Bloch family’s mezuzah was removed during repainting and not allowed to be re-affixed. After the Blochs filed suit against Shoreline in response, Shoreline adopted a religious exception to the hallway rules, and both the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois adopted laws guaranteeing the right of a tenant to affix religious symbols to their doors. Nonetheless, the lawsuit proceeded as the Blochs sought monetary damages from Shoreline due to the incident. Their case was thrown out in trial court and subsequently appealed on the federal level.
In July 2008, a three-judge-panel rejected this appeal, holding that the federal Fair Housing Act did not require a condominium association or landlord to accommodate an Orthodox Jewish tenant’s need to affix a mezuzah to his/her doorpost, as required by Jewish law.
Today’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, resulted from an en banc rehearing on the Blochs’ case, with eight judges participating.
The majority decision threw out the previous decision, ruling that the complaint should in fact be heard in a trial court.
Nathan J. Diament, public policy director for the Orthodox Union, issued the following statement commenting upon the court ruling:
The Orthodox Union commends the 7th Circuit Court for its decision. We believe that, irrespective of the facial neutrality of the condo association’s rule, to ban a Jewish tenant from affixing a mezuzah ought to be viewed as a constructive eviction from their home and thus illegal under the Fair Housing Act. Freedom from religious discrimination in housing must encompass the freedom to act in conformity with one’s religious beliefs. The court’s ruling vindicates this view and for that we are grateful.