Donna Dunbar | Cases | First Liberty

Meet the Dunbars

Donna Dunbar and her husband Clarence share a commitment to serving others rooted in their deeply-held religious beliefs. The Dunbars founded the Lighthouse Outreach Center, a soup kitchen ministering to the needs of the homeless. The center is still in operation today despite multiple setbacks due to burglary, arson, and a hurricane.

For their dedication of over 4,000 volunteer hours at the soup kitchen and in the community, President Obama awarded the Dunbars the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2010.

Board Outlaws Prayer and Religious Services from Common Areas

Just three months after Donna began her small group Bible study, the then-treasurer for Cambridge House Board of Directors expressed his disapproval. He demanded Mrs. Dunbar acquire insurance for the meeting, even though no other groups using the same room for secular activities were required to purchase insurance. Though she disputed the need for the insurance, she complied in hopes that this would be the end of the matter. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The Board of Directors, with no public notice, adopted a resolution providing that “Prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur … in or upon any of the common elements.”

After adopting the policy, the Cambridge House management sent Mrs. Dunbar a letter announcing the rule’s passage and explaining that the new policy “prohibits Bible Study meetings in the Social Room.”

The religious hostility didn’t stop there. In addition, the Board forced the removal of all religious items from the building’s public areas, including a decorative angel fountain and a statue of St. Francis of Assisi donated by a resident in memory of a deceased loved one. Someone even placed a sign on the community organ declaring that residents are also “BANNED” from playing “Christian” music on the instrument, which was donated by a resident.

First Liberty Legal Action

Attorneys with First Liberty Institute partnered with our network attorneys at the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, P.A., to file a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development on behalf of Mrs. Dunbar against the Cambridge House Condominiums in Port Charlotte, Florida. The complaint states that residents have been denied equal access to the community’s social room for meetings based on their religious content and requests HUD investigate the matter and take all appropriate actions. Read the entire HUD complaint here.

“The unequal treatment of citizens in the community simply out of hostility to religion violates federal law and the First Amendment,” said Lea Patterson, Judicial Fellow at First Liberty. “We are confident that Secretary Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will resolve this issue quickly.”

Press Release
For Immediate Release: March 7, 2018
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

First Liberty Files HUD Complaint Against
Florida Condominium Association for Religious Liberty Violation

Residents denied access to common use facilities for Bible study


Port Charlotte, Florida—Attorneys with First Liberty Institute and Greenberg Traurig, P.A., today filed a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development on behalf of residents at the Cambridge House Condominiums in Port Charlotte, Florida. Residents have been denied access to the community’s social room for meetings based on their religious content.

“The unequal treatment of citizens in the community simply out of hostility to religion violates federal law and the First Amendment,” said Lea Patterson, Judicial Fellow at First Liberty. “We are confident that Secretary Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will resolve this issue quickly.”

Mrs. Donna Dunbar is a lay minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church and received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Obama for providing more than 4,000 volunteer hours establishing a soup kitchen in her local community. For nearly a year, Mrs. Dunbar held a small Bible study once a week in the Cambridge House social room.

On February 6, 2018, the Cambridge House Board, with no public notice, adopted a resolution providing that “Prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur … in or upon any of the common elements.” In addition, the Board demanded the removal of all religious items from the building’s premises, including a decorative angel fountain, and a statue of St. Francis of Assisi donated by a resident in memory of a deceased loved one. Someone even placed a sign on the community organ explaining that residents are also prohibited from playing “Christian” music on the instrument that was donated by a resident.

The complaint asks for HUD to investigate the matter and take all appropriate actions. Read the entire HUD complaint by clicking here.

Learn more about this case at FirstLiberty.org/Dunbar.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and 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.

To download a copy of this press release, click here.

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To The American Legion:

As a grateful citizen, I support your effort to honor those who have fallen in battle and to keep the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial standing as a visible reminder of valor, sacrifice, endurance, and devotion.

Veterans memorials like the one in Bladensburg, MD are symbols reminding us of the sacrifice of our service members and the cost of war. Tearing down the Bladensburg Memorial would erase the memory of the 49 fallen heroes of Prince George’s County—like they never even existed.

We cannot allow the Bladensburg Memorial to be bulldozed.

Please know that you have my support and backing in your petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.