An Idaho family won $75,000 in a religious discrimination lawsuit against a homeowners’ association (HOA) after the couple claimed the HOA tried to stop them from hosting a five-day Christmas event which drew thousands of people to their home.
The jury unanimously sided with Jeremy and Kristy Morris in late October, finding that the West Hayden Estates Homeowners Association violated the federal Fair Housing Act for discriminating against the couple’s religious beliefs and ordered the HOA to pay $75,000 in compensatory damages to the family, the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press reported Thursday.
The jury said the HOA discriminated against the family since they moved into the area in 2014, especially after Jeremy Morris shared his Christian beliefs with the HOA members.
The Morris family had a yearly tradition where they would host an event in the five days leading up to Christmas.
The event included a live nativity scene with a camel, carolers, Santa Claus, hot chocolate, candy canes, and a display featuring more than 200,000 lights on the property.
The HOA wrote a letter in 2014 stating that if Jeremy wanted to move into the neighborhood, he would have to refrain from hosting the Christmas event.
The letter read, in part:
And finally, I am somewhat hesitant in bringing up the fact that some of our residents are non-Christians or of another faith and I don’t even want to think of the problems that could bring up…we do not wish to become entwined in any expensive litigation to enforce long-standing rules and regulations and fill our neighborhood with the hundreds of people and possible undesirables.
Once Jeremy and his family moved into the neighborhood and put on the Christmas event, he said his neighbors harassed him for putting on the event.
The HOA claimed the Morris family violated livestock rules for bringing in a live camel and used his home for business purposes in a residential area after he collected more than $6,000 charitable fundraising associated with the event.
Jeremy argued that the funds he raised from the event went to the Emmett Paul Snyders Foundation, a charity supporting children dealing with cancer.
Although the Morris family won their lawsuit against the HOA, it appears the family is losing the bigger war on Christmas.
Jeremy said 2018 would be the second year in a row his family had to cancel the Christmas event, and he is currently searching for another house where he will not have to deal with HOA rules or angry neighbors.
“Our family will live wherever we want to live to spread the message of Jesus Christ and the birth of our savior,” he said. “We’re looking forward. We’re positive. We’re excited.”