Jewish Man Claims Religious Display Got Him Evicted

mezuzah on door frame
mezuzah on door frame

An Orthodox Jew claims that when he refused to remove a religious object from a doorpost at his Long Island home that his landlady evicted him. Arye Sachs, 53, filed a federal lawsuit against his landlord after his mezuzah, an encased parchment inscribed with a Biblical blessing, was missing from his doorpost when he returned from a trip in June, the New York Post reported. A mezuzah (similar to the one displayed by a Chicago-area homeowner pictured above) is required by Judaism to be placed on one's doorpost.

Sachs claims that the landlady, Margarita Pascale, 57, repeatedly asked him to remove the mezuzah, which he says is an heirloom that was handed down from his grandfather, a victim of the Holocaust. When he refused, Sachs says, Pascale evicted him.

In 2012, AOL Real Estate reported on a similar case of a 60-year-old Connecticut woman who was threatened with a $50 per day fine by her condo association for refusing to remove her mezuzah. The association eventually backed down and its lawyer, Kurt Ahlberg, said that it was just a misunderstanding.

In Chicago, a similar dispute that erupted between homeowners and a condo association led to the passing of laws from both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois that protect the display of religious objects on residential property, but the measures are not retroactive. The Chicago condo owners eventually reached a private settlement that let them keep the mezuzahs.

Such cases are typically seen as being discriminatory against a particular religion when one finds that only objects erected to door frames are prohibited, while hanging objects from the door, such as a wreath or a crucifix, are not. The proper placement of a mezuzah is only on a doorframe, not the door itself.

A similar case in Texas led to a state bill signed in 2011 requiring homeowner associations to permit religious displays on residents' doors, including mezuzahs. Florida also enacted a law in 2008 that allows religious displays.

Such cases are not just prompted by Judaism. As AOL Real Estate reported last month, one Katy, Texas, homeowner faced fines when the tenant refused to remove a sign advertising her church. The Highland Creek Village Homeowners Association said the sign violates a bylaw prohibiting commercial signage in yards. The tenant said the bylaw violates her right to free speech and religious expression. A Port Orange, Fla., widow was asked to remove a statue of an angel; a HOA removed one homeowner's Virgin Mary statue; and a Huntsville, Ala., soldier was asked to remove his American flag, in potential violation of the "Freedom to Display the American Flag Act" of 2005.

More on displays that spark property disputes:
A Fine Line: Is Religious Real Estate Kosher?
Atheist, Who Threatened to Sue over Courthouse Nativity Scene, Sparks New Controversy
Soldier Flies American Flag Upside Down to Protest Obama's Re-Election