Conn. Condo in Mezuzah Discrimination Flap
A Connecticut condominium association has drawn queries from the Anti-Defamation League and a religious rights law office for allowing the display of items on doors but not doorposts.
The association’s agreement with its residents effectively bans the display of mezuzahs but not crucifixes and Christmas wreaths.
A March 13 letter to the California Condo Association in Stratford, Conn., from Nathan and Alyza Lewin, who have brought numerous successful anti-discrimination suits, says that by fining Barbara Cadranel for affixing a mezuzah to her doorpost, the association is in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. The association had notified Cadranel that she would be fined $50 a day if she kept the mezuzah on her doorpost.
The Lewins, who provided JTA with a photo of a neighbor’s door bearing a crucifix, say that if the association persists in fining Cadranel, they will institute legal proceedings.
In a separate letter, the ADL Connecticut office said that by allowing Christian objects to be displayed on doors, “the operative effect of a policy banning mezuzahs from a condominium complex may be to prevent Jews from living there,” and also notes that this may violate various civil rights laws.
In a letter to the ADL, Kurt Ahlberg, the association’s lawyer, said the association’s agreement with its dwellers “prohibits the displaying of any item, of whatever nature, upon the exterior wall of any unit,” and that it explicitly exempts doors from that ban.
Relevant excerpts of the agreement provided to JTA by the Lewins ban displays “outside of windows or placed on the outside walls of any of the buildings” and stipulates that “no sign, awnings, canopies, shutters or radio or television antennas shall be affixed to or placed upon the exterior walls or roofs.”
Doorposts are not mentioned or defined, although “structural elements” of the building are excluded from being defined as part of a unit.
In a short interview with JTA, Ahlberg said the condo association defines door frames as structural elements, and that his client rejected allegations of discrimination.
The right of condominium owners to display mezuzahs has generally prevailed in similar cases in Connecticut and other states, and a number of states have enacted laws upholding that right.