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AFA-Michigan offers to pay fines, legal fees for Novi homeowners

December 2, 2005

UPDATE: Thanks to some quick work by our faithful allies at the Thomas More Law Center, the neighborhood association mentioned below has already apologized in writing to the Samonas and even sent them a “holiday” fruit basket, which the family forwarded to a local charity. Salute and Merry Christmas to this courageous family and our friends at TMLC.

Gary Glenn, President

AFA-Michigan offers to pay fines, legal fees for Novi homeowners

Group says neighborhood Nativity ban discriminates against Christians, compares to race-based covenants

NOVI, Mich. — A Novi neighborhood association’s attempt to ban Christmas decorations that feature the Baby Jesus and other Biblical figures associated with the birth of Christ is as blatantly unlawful, unconstitutional, and discriminatory toward Christians as neighborhood covenants that once prohibited African-Americans from purchasing homes, a statewide family values group charged Wednesday.

The American Family Association of Michigan condemned the Tollgate Woods subdivision for ordering Novi homeowners Frank and Betty Samona to remove from their lawn the traditional Christian Nativity figures of the Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and the Three Wise Men. The order applied only to the family’s Christian religious figures, while their non-religious Christmas decorations — Santa and Mrs. Claus, Minnie Mouse, and Winnie the Pooh, all outfitted in red — were not ordered removed, the Detroit News reported Tuesday .

AFA-Michigan spokesperson Tracey Lee, an African-American attorney from West Bloomfield, expressed astonishment at the order, saying its instruction to remove only those decorations that display and express the family’s Christian faith is blatantly discriminatory and indisputably unconstitutional.

“Telling Christians they can’t live in a certain neighborhood if they want to express their religious faith is no different than telling African-Americans they can’t live in a neighborhood because of their race. Both are discriminatory and illegal,” Lee said.

“It is so clearly and indisputably illegal, so blatantly a violation of this Christian family’s Constitutionally-guaranteed religious free speech rights, so obviously motivated by specifically anti-Christian bigotry, that you have to wonder at the audacity and even stupidity required to actually put such an unlawful order in writing,” she said.

Lee said AFA-Michigan will offer to provide the Samonas free legal representation by its national legal affiliate, the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, which has successfully defended Christmas Nativity displays and other religious free speech rights in cases across the country.

AFA-Michigan is also offering to pay the up to $100 a week in fines the neighborhood association is threatening to levy against the Samonas until the Christian Nativity scene is removed, she said. She commended the Samonas for refusing to obey the order.

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