Families settle mezuzah dispute with Chicago condo

(JTA) – Two families and a Chicago condominium association settled their dispute over the removal of mezuzahs from the residents’ doorposts.

The agreement between the families and the Shoreline Towers Association was signed Tuesday, according to representatives of the plaintiffs’ attorney. It stipulates that the terms of the settlement, which were e-mailed to JTA, remain confidential.

A federal trial had opened in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois the day before the agreement was signed. Healy & Schulte, the public relations/marketing firm representing the law firm of Much Shelist, told JTA in an e-mail that the two sides had started settlement talks on the eve of the trial date.

According to Much Shelist, which was representing Debra Gassman and the Bloch family, the residents said their mezuzahs were removed repeatedly from outside their doors by the association. A building rule adopted in 2001 prohibits “objects of any sort” outside the entrances to residents’ units. Ironically, one of the plaintiffs chaired the committee that drafted the regulation.

The plaintiffs said they tried to resolve the issue directly with the board before eventually filing complaints of religious discrimination with the city’s Commission on Human Relations, the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the state’s attorney general. Since then, both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois have passed laws protecting the display of religious objects on residential property, but the measures are not retroactive.  

A similar case in Texas led to a state bill signed June 17 requiring homeowner associations to permit religious displays on residents’ doors, including mezuzahs. Florida enacted a similar law in 2008.

 

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