HOA: Bah Humbug! | Cases | First Liberty

In past years, Jeremy and Kristy Morris hosted a Christmas display at their home in the Hayden, Idaho-area, asking visitors for donations to charities that assist those with childhood cancer and or who have suffered abuse and neglect. The displays ran for two years, but halted when confronted by an HOA and litigation.

The conflict began in 2014 when the Morrises planned to move to a new home The Morrises then let the West Hayden States First Addition Homeowners Association know of their intention to host a Christmas display to ensure compliance with HOA regulations.

The HOA’s response was a remarkable display of religious hostility and illegal discrimination.

In its letter, the HOA president stated, “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. It is not the intention of the Board to discourage you from becoming part of our great neighborhood but we do not wish to become entwined in expensive litigation to enforce long-standing rules and regulations and fill our neighborhood with the hundreds of people and possible undesirables.”

In 2017 the Morrises sued the HOA for trying to block the display. In response, the HOA countersued. Though the displays did not run for two years during litigation, the Morrises continued to receive verbal abuse and even death threats from their neighbors.

After a trial, an Idaho jury found that the HOA engaged in religious discrimination against the Morrises and awarded them $60,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages. The jury also found that a letter sent by the HOA in 2014 showed “preference that a non-religious individual” should purchase the home.

However, in April 2019, the judge overruled the jury’s verdict, imposed an injunction preventing the Morrises from decorating their home for Christmas, and imposed thousands of dollars of attorney’s fees on the Morrises.

“The jury found that the Homeowners’ Association discriminated against the Morris family by repeatedly attempting to shut down the family’s Christmas display and childrens’ charity fundraiser,” Jeremy Dys, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Institute said.  “The jury in this case recognized clear religious hostility by the HOA—there was no good reason for a judge to overrule them.”

In May, attorneys with First Liberty filed an appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


* Photo provided by Mark Addy with Maximum Exposure Photography

News Release
For Immediate Release: 5.6.19
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org

Direct: 972-941-4453

Religious Liberty Law Firm Files Appeal on Behalf of Idaho Family After Judge Overrules Jury Verdict on Christmas Display
First Liberty Institute asserts verdict judge overruled should be upheld after jury found religious discrimination by HOA

 Coeur d’Alene, ID—First Liberty Institute is appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of Jeremy and Kristy Morris after a judge overruled a jury verdict finding the Idaho man’s HOA discriminated against him based on his religion.  First Liberty is asking the Ninth Circuit to reinstate the jury’s verdict.

Read the notice of appeal here.

“The jury found that the Homeowners’ Association discriminated against the Morris family by repeatedly attempting to shut down the family’s Christmas display and childrens’ charity fundraiser,” Jeremy Dys, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Institute said.  “The jury in this case recognized clear religious hostility by the HOA—there was no good reason for a judge to overrule them.”

Jeremy and Kristy Morris hosted a Christmas display at their home in the Hayden, Idaho-area, asking visitors for donations to charities that assist children with cancer and children who have suffered abuse and neglect. In 2014, when the Morrises planned to move to a new home, they let the West Hayden States First Addition Homeowners Association know that they would have a Christmas display.

In response, the HOA wrote, “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” and “we do not wish to . . . fill our neighborhood with the hundreds of people and possible undesirables.”

After a trial, an Idaho jury found that the Morrises were discriminated against on the basis of religion during and after the purchase of their home, and awarded them $60,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages. The jury also found that the letter sent by the HOA showed “preference that a non-religious individual” should purchase the home. However, the judge overruled the jury’s verdict, imposed an injunction preventing the Morrises from decorating their home for Christmas, and imposed thousands of dollars of attorney’s fees on the Morrises.

“Families should be encouraged to raise money for an abused or neglected children’s charity by inviting their community to see their Christmas display, not be punished by their HOA for it,” added Dys.

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Click here for a PDF of this news release.

About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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