While a religious-liberty law firm is claiming victory in two cases of government-subsidized housing facilities that it says had restricted Christmas festivities, officials from one complex are denying attorneys’ assertions and say their policy has always been the same – residents are permitted to decorate with religious symbols for the holiday.
As WorldNetDaily reported, attorneys at Liberty Counsel said earlier this week they had sent two separate letters to housing authorities subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development demanding that they reverse their positions regarding Christmas.
In a statement, the law group said the Housing Resource Development Corporation had informed those senior citizens living in its Winter Park, Fla., subsidized housing facility that they may not sing Christmas carols, nor may they have outside religious groups or churches sing Christmas carols in the facility.
Representing one of the residents, Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter asserting the housing authority was violating the Federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits religious discrimination. The housing authority was threatened with legal action if it did not lift the carols prohibition.
Liberty Counsel also targeted Bethany Towers, which provides housing to low-income seniors and people with disabilities in Mechanicsburg, Pa. The managers there reportedly had barred Christmas decorations from the lobby and the day rooms on each floor, and had prohibited decorations with religious connotations on individuals’ entry doors.
The law firm stated yesterday that both facilities have responded to the letters, saying residents are able to celebrate with Christmas carols, in the case of the Florida complex, and decorate with religious decorations at the Pennsylvania apartment building.
Said the law firm’s statement: “Following Liberty Counsel’s demand letter, [Bethany Towers] reversed its position and issued a new directive that now permits residents to display religious Christmas decorations. Residents refer to some of the managing staff as ‘wardens’ and one is described as ‘Hitler with a hangover.’”
Attorneys also claim management at Bethany Towers had removed nativity scenes and other religious decorations set up by the seniors and removed angels from a Christmas tree.
One official representing the complex, however, disagrees with Liberty Counsel’s original contention about the guidelines, saying its policy has always been open on decorations.
“Residents continue, as they always have, to decorate their apartments, their entry doors and the alcoves near their apartments for the holidays,” Eric C. Anderson, marketing and communications manager at Asbury Services Inc., told WND in reference to the Bethany Towers controversy. “And in fact, they are decorating the common areas in their building as they wish.”
Representatives from both complexes failed to return multiple calls for comment about the issues earlier this week. WND eventually received a copy of a letter addressed to Liberty Counsel from Sheryl Stevens, executive director of Bethany Towers, strongly denying officials there had restricted decorating by residents.
“It is important that you know that Bethany Towers has not in any way precluded residents from displaying religious symbols on their doors,” Stevens wrote, adding that she was trying to dispel confusion residents were having due to “media coverage your organization encouraged with respect to this matter.”
Liberty Counsel insists both complexes were guilty of religious discrimination.
Commented Mathew Staver, the organization’s president and general counsel: “To see the elderly deprived of the joy of Christmas breaks my heart. We at Liberty Counsel are grateful to bring the joy of Christmas to these precious people. I call upon the federal government to issue Christmas guidelines designed to prevent religious discrimination that often occurs in these senior centers.”