The Trump administration has launched an investigation into the management company of a Missouri 55-and-older housing development for its ban on Christmas lights and yard displays.
Non-profit litigation organization Liberty Counsel reports officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are investigating MACO Management Company’s ban on Christmas lights and décor displays at Grandview Estates, a housing development that is subsidized by HUD.
Trump Administration officials from HUD have opened an investigation into a management company's ban of Christmas lights and yard displays at a housing development.https://t.co/LmIvayTDT6 pic.twitter.com/i34N8vfTuh
— Liberty Counsel (@libertycounsel) December 23, 2019
According to the report, MACO Management barred residents of the complex from decorating the exterior of their duplexes with Christmas lights or other displays.
“Nothing in the lease agreement or regulations supported such a ban and residents have previously displayed Christmas lights and yard decorations for many years,” states Liberty Counsel, which recently sent a demand letter to the management company on behalf of Grandview Estates’ residents.
The letter notes residents were told the “rationale” for the Christmas light and decoration ban is that, because all residents are funded, in part, by government funds, the Government’s Fair Housing rules must apply. To that end, even the display of Christmas wreaths is forbidden, though the manager did hold a “Holiday Wreath contest.”
Liberty Counsel reports MACO Management responded to the demand letter with its own letter, signed by Tammy Delcour, regional manager of MACO Management, who cited the company’s own rules and regulations but failed to cite any HUD or “Government Fair Housing” regulations.
“We have never in the past or will in the future hamper a resident from decorating to their desire on the inside of their residence as they choose,” Delcour wrote. “We do however have rules and regulations for the outside and the structures themselves.”
The litigation non-profit notes:
After Liberty Counsel sent a follow-up response requesting MACO rescind the decoration ban in order to avoid receiving a complaint with HUD for civil rights violations, MACO issued a memo to residents. The memo states that residents may decorate the interior of their homes and now “their front door and porch area with more overtly religious displays,” yet continues to ban yard displays deemed “religious:” “When decorating with yard scenes we must stay neutral within the community so no religion is offended or singled out … We as a management company look for a policy which appropriately balanced the beliefs of all while ensuring we are not perceived to favor one religion over another.”
“This conflates the private speech of residents with the speech of the management company,” Liberty Counsel states, adding the company is violating the Fair Housing Act, which bans discriminating against residents on the basis of religion.
“Christmas is a nationally recognized holiday, and banning individuals’ religious decorations or celebrations in a federally subsidized or managed residential facility violates the Fair Housing Act and other federal laws,” Liberty Counsel asserts. “Any federal law or funding requirement that would restrict or prohibit residents’ religious holiday decorations would violate the First Amendment rights of the residents.”
Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel chairman, said he welcomes HUD’s investigation into MACO Management’s practices.
“MACO’s banning Grandview Estates residents from their longstanding traditions of displaying Christmas or other religious holiday decorations constitutes discrimination based on religion,” he said. “Nothing in Federal regulations, the lease agreement or residential regulations supports such a ban. MACO Management Company must allow residents to decorate their duplexes, just like they have in the past.”