Federal complaint filed after condo bans religious activity in common spaces

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - A Port Charlotte woman says her condo HOA is banning her bible study group and any religious activity from the common spaces in the building. A federal complaint has been filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Donna Dunbar lives at Cambridge House Condominiums and has held bible study groups in its common room every Monday morning for nearly a year. 

“I rely on God for everything,” Dunbar said. 

She said her 919 sq. foot condo is too small for the nine person group. 

“We study the Bible and sing some karaoke songs,” she said. 

Dunbar said on February 6th, the HOA board decided it would no longer be approved. They adopted a resolution saying "prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur ... in or upon any of the common elements."

'Like I was being rejected," Dunbar said. "This is my home, this is my community." 
 
She said someone even put a sign on the community organ reading "any and all Christian music is banned!" 

"It made me sad," she said.

She got in touch with First Liberty institute, a legal organization that protects religious liberty. It filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"That was evidence of some kind of discrimination," Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Dys said.

Dys said since groups of the same size are allowed to hold game nights and movie nights, Dunbar should be able to hold Bible study.

"The federal Fair Housing Act doesn't allow a condo association like this to allow people to meet on secular topics, but not to meet on religious topics," he said.

 Now that the complaint has been filed, it's a waiting game. 

"We want to be there for those in this building, as well as those on the outside. Just be there for them, support them. It's like a support group," Dunbar said.

Dunbar said before banning religious activity, the HOA required her to get insurance to continue using the common room for bible study. I reached out to the company that manages Cambridge House -- Gateway Group -- They said they act in the direction of the HOA and had no comment.

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