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Man goes viral after winning 4-year-battle over religious discrimination because of holiday lights

Mary Scott
Nov 27, 2018
05:47 P.M.

An Idaho man has gone viral after winning a four-year legal battle against religious discrimination by his Homeowners Association. Sadly, he seems to have lost the bigger war.

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For the longest time, Jeremy Morris and his family have been known for hosting an annual five-day-long nativity event that attracted thousands of people.

The event, which Morris calls his ministry to the public, features the usual Christmas lights, hymns, Santa, and faith-based messages revolving around Christ’s birth.

“Because someone in the association doesn't like Christmas.”

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Before moving into their Ferndale drive home, Morris tried discussing how best he could organize the program with minimal disturbance, but he got a rude shock from the HOA.

In a 2014 letter served to Morris, the HOA wrote:

“We do not wish to become entwined in any expensive litigation to enforce long standing rules and regulations and fill our neighborhood with the hundreds of people and possible undesirables. We have worked hard to keep our area peaceful, quiet, and clean. …And finally, I am somewhat hesitant in bringing up the fact that some of our residents are non-Christians or of another faith. And I don't even want to think of the problems that could bring up.”

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UNFILTERED VERSION

However, the Couer d'Alene Press reports that an earlier draft of the letter discovered during the trial was more direct and portrayed stronger sentiments.

“We do not wish to become entwined in any expensive litigation to enforce long-standing rules and regulations and fill our neighborhood with the riff-raff you seemed to attract over by WalMart … Grouse Meadows indeed!!! We don't allow 'those kind' in our neighborhood.”

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But Morris, himself an attorney, knew he was merely exercising his First Amendment right to practice his faith peacefully.

COVERING ALL THE BASES

Further correspondence unveiled during the trial revealed that the HOA brought up the issue of bright lights and road blockages. They had no case, however, because Morris had made paid for traffic management in the area, organized city-approved parking somewhere else for his guests, and even hired a shuttle to bring attendees to his home for the event.

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Morris also went as far as paying $2million on insurance for the storytelling segment that involved live animals. All these are beside the free food and drinks the father-of-three provides.

The only thing he asks of guests is a donation to Emmett Paul Snyders Foundation which benefits local kids with cancer and their families.

Donations also go to the Children’s Village, a haven for kids suffering from abuse, neglect or severe family crisis. The donations are collected by hired actors dressed as Roman centurions who pretend to “tax” visitors. It was all a part of the fun theme incorporated into the faith-based event.

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THE UGLY TRUTH

Earlier in 2016, Morris had also asked the HOA’s president, Ron Taylor, about the lighting issue. After Taylor assured Morris that he wasn’t breaking any HOA rules with the temporary Christmas lights, the former president revealed why the Association was so fixated on him:

“Because someone in the association doesn't like Christmas.”

MOVING OUT

Once the jury ascertained that Morris and his family were victims of religious discrimination, they awarded them $75,000 in damages. Although Morris won the case, it appears the HOA succeeded in wearing him out.

The family is now searching for a new house, and Morris said the $75,000 would go toward helping them move.

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