"Thou shalt not steal" is a shared societal principle that, by law, protects our private property, religious or otherwise, from being taken by others at will. That is, at least, until your private property becomes offensive to your local homeowners' association.
The homeowners' association has admitted to the "theft," conceding that they did indeed have the 150-pound cement statue removed from the Vasko family's home -- but only because it was placed on "common ground" where homeowners are legally banned from displaying anything.
To add insult to injury, the Vasko family have been slapped a hefty fine for every month that they violated the policy, and have racked up a bill of over $4,000. Until the fine is paid, the homeowners' association has announced, it will hold the Virgin Mary statue in custody and have suspended the Vasko family's rights to park on their own property.
"Would that be extortion or kidnapping?" An irate Steven Vasko told television station KDKA 2. "You tell me, I don't know."
Similarly, in July, a couple in Bossier City, La., were sued by their homeowners' association for refusing to remove a front yard banner supporting their son, who was serving as a Marine in Afghanistan at the time. According to the couple's lawyers, this viciously "attacked" the homeowners' First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.
Similar defenses could be used in this case, where sensitive issues such as religious expression are forced into the limelight. Because the object in question is an "article of faith," it is argued by the American Civil Liberties Union that the right of "families to erect [religious] monuments on their own property is constitutionally protected, regardless of whether it is public or private and regardless of whether someone is offended or not."
And it looks like Vasko plans to leverage that argument until he gets his statue back.
"This is religious persecution. This is discrimination," Vasko says. "Is it a losing battle to hold your ground? No. If you are [losing], then we might as well all quit as Americans."
Are you sick of picket fences and tidy cupolas? Then take a trip with us down the rabbit hole as we tour some of the trippiest, most off-the-wall designs this side of Wonderland. Sure, it’s harder to qualify for a mortgage when your house is made of foam, and yes, it may take years to sell your deconstructivist compound in the desert, but why let a little thing like foresight get in the way of your dream home? Even if you’d never venture to buy one of the stunning homes on our list, it can’t hurt to take a brisk walk on the wild side.
This psychedelic dwelling sits on a hilltop in the ritzy D.C. suburb of Bethesda, Md. Composed of cinder, glass and wood, the home was designed by renowned Washington, D.C., architect Robert Gurney, says Realtor.com.
A deconstructivist home designed by the Viennese architectural firm, Coop Himmelb(l)au, this home would have had Jacques Derrida, the eminently verbose philosopher who developed the critical theory of deconstruction, offering a discreet golf clap (intellectual-style).
This downright disorienting property sprawls over 6.5 acres of desert, and plopped in its middle is this bizarre, L-shaped home. Designed by famed architect Will Bruder, it offers an airy two floors that are constantly flooded with light through floor-to-ceiling windows, says Realtor.com.
Built in 1969 for about $30,000, this house of hardened polyurethane insulation foam was designed by architect Winslow Wedin who was tasked with constructing something quite different than your average home. The "Ensculptic House," also known as the "Mushroom House" (guess why), offers two bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and 4,080 total square feet.
The polyurethane of the home provides good insulation during the winter, which probably keeps energy bills low. Though the quirky home faced an uncertain future when it hit the market last year, the "Mushroom House" sold in June for $170,000, according to Twin Cities Business.
Selected as the "Built Green Home of the Year," this mansion sits on three acres "chosen" for their solar access, according to the listing. The exterior is made of "EverLogs," which imitate the texture and appearance of wood. The fake, but earth-friendly logs mean you never have to worry about fire, mold or insects.
This 9,689-square-foot futuristic home is "The New American Home" of 2011. Put on by the National Association of Home Builders, the show annually features a home boasting the latest in innovative building and design technologies. About as green as they come, the home is expected to expend 42 percent less energy than if it were built to minimum building codes. That adds up to savings of about $2,085 a year, according to the NAHB.
The home earns some of its green creds by using a drought-tolerant system. Trees and shrubs are positioned to shade the home while a water-efficient irrigation system reuses stored runoff collected in an underground storage tank.
Learn more about this home.
Known as the Acqua Liana -- the Fijian term for "water flower," according to McKinney's site -- the home sits on 1.6 acres of pristine coastal shoreline. The interior, however, channels 1960s Bond flicks. Its nautical theme runs throughout the expansive mansion.
The fact that the home includes solar panels, high-efficiency appliances, a reusable water filtration and a bevy of other sustainable design gimmicks -- er, features -- might be overshadowed by the view from this aquatic garage. Park your electric car beside this underwater dividing wall, perfect for peeking at poolside divers.