Port Charlotte condo bans common-space religious gatherings

A condominium complex banned religious and musical gatherings in common spaces, but one resident isn’t backing down.

Donna Dunbar holds a bible study group in a common area in the Cambridge House Condominiums, but received a rule from her home owner’s association.

“We just met every Monday for two hours and that was it,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar said at first, the home owner’s association asked her to get insurance, but then at a board meeting last month they told her she could no longer meet there for Bible study.

“They said that there would be no more prayers here, there would be no more anything here,” Dunbar said. “There was a sign in the organ downstairs that said, ‘No Christian Music Allowed.'”

Jeremy Dys, of First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal organization advocating for religious rights, said there’s been a violation.

“Prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature shall not occur … in or upon any of the common elements,” the home owner’s association said in a statement.

But Dunbar believes that since it’s a multipurpose room, she should be able to use it how she pleases.

“The funny thing is that Donna could be studying the book of the month from Oprah Winfrey and that would be alright, but because it happens to be religious book in nature, that is now forbidden,” Dys said.

Dys said the group “has violated a couple of the fair housing laws in this country.”

Dys also said it was unlawful.

“Her condo association without any notice or any prior information whatsoever, didn’t accept any prior comments or public comments about things,” Dys said.

A complaint was also filed against the complex with the Department of Housing and Urban Development calling it a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Dys said Dunbar received a letter from management prohibiting her bible study to be held in the social room.

“There something that is not right going on there at this condo association,” Dys said.

Dunbar says her weekly gatherings were important to her because they created community, and she hopes the board changes their mind.

“It’s not just studying the Bible, it’s about praying for each other. It’s about loving each other and watching people grow,” Dunbar said.

WINK News reached out to the property management and condo association, but they declined comment.

Reporter:Chris Grisby
Writer:Rachel Ravina
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