Chalk One Up For God

If you’ve lived in a residence that is a part of a homeowners or condominium association, you’ve probably been briefed with the rules: Nothing can be displayed in the front yard, and nothing hung on the front door.

Many HOAs or condo associations prohibit the posting of items on the exterior of one’s building, but can they prevent you from expressing your religion in this way? What are your rights?

In the past, there have been numerous cases of discrimination on the basis of religion by housing authorities and associations; many involving disputes over the common Jewish practice of placing a mezuzah on the post of a doorframe. 

At Mauck & Baker, we recently received a call from someone whose condo association told them to stop writing letters and numbers in chalk on the front door to their unit. This practice, referred to as “chalking the doors” is a traditional Catholic ritual that takes place around the Epiphany holiday to ask for God’s blessing on a person’s home. It is an outward sign of dedication to God that helps those who do it live out their faith.

Thankfully, in 2005 Chicago’s Municipal Code was amended to make it illegal for housing associations to restrict apartment, condo, and home renters or owners from “placing or affixing a religious sign, symbol, or relic on the door, door post, or entrance.” One year later, Illinois followed suit and amended the Illinois Condominium Property Act to expand this accommodation for religious expression. Many other city and state legislatures have also done the same.

After consulting with our concerned caller, we instructed him on how to address the condo association’s demands. The condo association was then told by their own attorneys to drop their request and allow this religious practice to proceed. This goes to show that many times legal action is not needed to resolve conflict, but seek wise counsel to advise you nonetheless. So if your landlord or residence owner tells you to stop chalking the door or take down a small religious symbol from your entrance, know your rights! If they refuse to back down, however, don’t hesitate to contact Mauck & Baker.

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