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The Mezuzah Case: Condo Rules Limited by Religious Freedom

Boston real estate lawyers are familiar with the massive binder of documents known as the CC&Rs, or the "conditions, covenants and restrictions." These are documents issued by a condominium association which essentially spell out terms of abidance for the condo owners.

They are somewhat similar to Homeowners' Association rules.

There was a recent case in Chicago, where condominium rules overlapped with the religious right of expression. Although this is a case based out of Chicago, it has significant relevance to Boston real estate lawyers, given the diverse religious composition of Boston and the greater Boston region.

At issue was the right of a Jewish family to hang a mezuzah on their doorpost. The plaintiffs, Lynne Bloch, Helen Bloch and Nathan Bloch, were prohibited by their condominium association from hanging mezuzot on their doorposts.

The mezuzah, (or mezuzot, as plural) for the uninitiated, is a small box containing Hebrew scripture.

Interestingly, the Federal Housing Act was invoked, which essentially came in here to prohibit a condominium association from enforcing CC&Rs which would impact an owner's right to religious expression.

As a result of this case, it's clear that while state law plays a significant role in regulating housing laws, the presence of federal law is hardly something to ignore.

The case presents an interesting interplay of state real estate laws and federal housing discrimination laws.

So now, Boston real estate attorneys have some answers with regards to hanging a mezuzah, a crucifix or any other religious symbol.

But is religious freedom the only untouchable area for CC&Rs?

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