Sunday, July 20, 2008

U. S. Religious Freedom--Jews Not Included

According to U.S. Law, there can't be religious nor racial discrimination in housing, but...

It doesn't mean that a Jew can follow his religion and put a Mezuza on his door post.

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.
This is the second such case recently. If I'm not mistaken, the previous one ended better.


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting case. I wonder what the specifics are. If it's an overall rule that one can not hang things on the walls, then I can understand no mezuzzah. BUT, if the ruling is simply, "no mezuzzah". That's sad.

Another odd thing is it specifically mentions "Orthodox Jews" affixing mezzuzot. I'm an observant conservative with mezzuzot on every doorpost. My father is not super observant and he even has mezzuzot. It's an odd distinction to me.

Batya said...

Their bylaw concerned "any" wall-hanging, but unlike the US Christian-based "no head-covering," which has been amended to allow for religious requirements, the court ruled against religion.
I'm also bothered by the distinction of "Orthodox" vs any Jew. It's as if there are separate religions, like christianity.

benning said...

I find it surprising that any condo association would decide in this fashiopn. Question: Did the lawsuit come after the condo association was approached or was the lawsuit filed in lieu of speaking to the condo association?

Batya said...

The information is in the OU link. I only quotd part of it. They have a lot of experience with cases like this and only go to court when nothing else works.

Hadassa DeYoung said...

I hate to seem indifferent, but why do we expect America to always side with Jewish law? If according to the American Constitution Jews have the right to affix a mezuza, then no condo board should be able to negate that right. But if not, why live where we're not wanted? Why live in America anyway? The Promised Land is Israel, not the Goldina Medina.
In this case I think that the writer assumes that any Jew who puts up a mezuza is Orthodox. To some people a woman is "ultra-orthodox" if she always wears a skirt, regardless of the length. Labels are quite often meaningless.
Rav Kahane ztz"l, hy"d would have been able to write a great article about this issue. Is there a living right-wing rabbi-lawyer from America who could shed some light on the subject?
P.S. Does the OU spend as much time promoting aliyah as it does fighting for the right to put up mezuzot in the Diaspora? (My opinion of the OU has steadily dropped since they supported Sharon and Olmert's decision to level Gush Katif and the northern Shomron.)

Batya said...

Hadassa, you're on the mark, as usual.
The OU is an American organization, and aliyah was never a priority.