Victory for Idaho Couple Ordered to Take Down Christmas Display

June 21, 2024
Idaho Couple Christmas | FLI Insider

Jorge Gomez • 4 min read

Good news for our clients, Jeremy and Kristy Morris.

A homeowner’s association ordered the Morrises to take down a Christmas display at their home in Hayden, Idaho. Jeremy and Kristy sought relief in court. They argued that the HOA Board discriminated against them because of their Christian faith by discouraging them from purchasing a home in the neighborhood and then interfering with the practice of their faith by opposing the Christmas program.

First Liberty, along with volunteer attorneys from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher took over the case on appeal. Allyson Ho, partner at Gibson Dunn, argued the case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2020.

This week, the 9th Circuit reversed the lower court ruling against the Morrises.

Previously, an Idaho jury found that the HOA had discriminated against Jeremy and Kristy because of their religious beliefs. However, an Idaho judge overruled the jury’s verdict and issued a ruling preventing them from decorating their home for Christmas. On top of that, the court imposed thousands of dollars of attorney’s fees that Jeremy and Kristy would have to pay.

“The 9th Circuit sided with religious freedom,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel for First Liberty. “We are grateful to Allyson Ho and the team at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher for not only upholding the importance of trial by jury, but also for securing the right freedom of every family to celebrate the Christmas season without fear of retribution in their very own neighborhood.”

To celebrate the holidays, Jeremy and Kristy hosted an incredibly successful Christmas display and program. It featured cotton candy, candy canes, hot chocolate, Christmas lights, and appearances by Santa. As part of their venture, they used the opportunity to accept donations to local charities serving children who are homeless or suffering from cancer. This was a way that they could live out their faith and care for others in their local community.

Upon moving to a new home in 2014, Jeremy and Kristy notified the West Hayden Estates First Addition Homeowners Association that they’d be setting up an annual Christmas display.

But they received a frosty reception. Members of their HOA wrote a scathing letter, claiming they were “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.” The same letter went on to state, “We do not wish to…fill our neighborhood with the hundreds of people and possible undesirables.”

Jeremy and Kristy didn’t cave into the HOA’s intimidation, knowing they had complied with all requirements and rules. They went forward with their first Christmas program in their new home just as they had originally planned. As before, it was an enormous success.

Still, the HOA tried to block the display and harassed the Morrises for months. At one point, an HOA member bluntly stated that they were doing so “because someone in this association doesn’t like Christmas.”

After years of fighting the HOA in court, this is an encouraging and important step in the right direction for Jeremy and Kristy.  Everyone should be free to celebrate Christmas without fear of retribution.


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