FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UNION OF ORTHODOX JEWISH CONGREGATIONS DISAPPOINTED WITH FEDERAL APPEALS COURT RULING FINDING THAT FEDERAL FAIR HOUSING ACT DOES NOT PROTECT AGAINST CONDO ASSOCIATION BANNING MEZUZAH FROM RESIDENTS’ DOORPOSTS
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, expressed its disappointment with a ruling issued today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit against Orthodox Jewish apartment owners in Chicago whose condominium association had temporarily banned them from affixing a mezuzah to their apartment doorpost. The appeals court, in the case of Bloch v. Shoreline Towers Condo. Assn., ruled that the federal Fair Housing Act does 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.
The case arose when Shoreline Towers adopted a rule banning materials of various kinds outside of tenants’ doors and the Bloch’s mezuzah was removed during repainting and not allowed to be re-affixed. After the Bloch’s 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 Bloch’s sought monetary damages from Shoreline due to the incident.
In upholding the rejection of the Bloch’s claim, the Court of Appeals held that the hallway rule was a general rule not targeted against a particular religious practice and therefore not an act of discrimination against the Blochs. One member of the appeals panel dissented from the ruling, and reasoned that, given an observant Jew’s obligation to affix a mezuzah to her doorpost, the hallway rule was a “constructive eviction” under the Fair Housing Act.
Nathan J. Diament, public policy director for the UOJCA, issued the following statement commenting upon the court ruling:
The Orthodox Union is disappointed with this ruling by the Court of Appeals. We believe that irrespective of the facial neutrality of the condo association’s rule, that 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. We are grateful that this is not a practical issue at the moment in the Shoreline Condominiums, nor in Illinois or in several other states which have passed similar laws protecting religious liberty in their dwellings. We will, however, consider appealing to Congress to make clear that such rules are outlawed by the Fair Housing Act.