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A property management company of a 55 and older housing development in Independence, Missouri has banned residents from decorating their duplexes with outside Christmas lights and yard decorations.

Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the MACO Management Company on behalf of residents at Grandview Estates, a HUD-subsidized residential complex. MACO Management has prohibited residents from decorating their duplexes with outside Christmas decorations, including lights and yard decorations. Nothing in the lease agreement or regulations supports such a ban and residents have previously displayed Christmas lights and yard decorations for many years.

MACO originally banned Christmas light and decorations citing “Government’s Fair Housing rules. Everyone in the complex is funded in part by Government funds, so we are required to follow their rules.”  However, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has no such rule.

Residents reside in duplexes which have yards with space for exterior decorations but were told that “any violations [of such rules] twice in six months will result in termination of your lease.” This includes the Christmas light and decoration ban.

In its December 17, 2019 response to Liberty Counsel’s letter, the management company failed to cite any HUD or “Government Fair Housing Rule” supporting the Christmas light and decoration ban. MACO Management instead claimed that its own lease agreements and “Rules and Regulations” prohibit Christmas lights and decorations, but the actual language does not support the claimed ban, or MACO’s original claim.

MACO must now confirm by close of business on Thursday, December 19, 2019, that the Christmas light and decoration ban has been rescinded in order to avoid receiving a complaint with HUD for civil rights violations.

This ban violates the Fair Housing Act. MACO is forbidden by the Act from discriminating against residents at this facility on the basis of religion. Religious free exercise includes the display of holiday decorations. Christmas is a nationally recognized holiday and to ban religious decorations or celebrations in a federally subsidized or managed residential facility violates the Fair Housing Act and other federal laws. Any federal law or funding requirement that would restrict or prohibit residents’ religious holiday decorations would violate the First Amendment rights of the residents.

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Author: Liberty Counsel


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