Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published April 5, 2007
Just in time
for Passover, Laurie Richter won the right to keep her mezuzah on the
doorpost of her rented Fort Lauderdale condominium.
But that's not good enough for Attorney General Bill McCollum. He gave the
association at The Port Condominium, in the 1800 block of Southeast 17th
Street, until 5 p.m. today to change its rules so all its Jewish residents
can hang mezuzahs.
are small cases containing religious messages. They are traditionally
placed on the doorposts of Jewish homes.
"Our interest extends beyond Ms. Richter," said Allison K.
Bethel, director of the attorney general's civil rights division. "We
represent the public interest, which includes the right of all Jewish
residents there now or in the future to display mezuzahs in accordance
with their religion."
"A resolution [by the board] that allows only Ms. Richter to display
her mezuzah does not satisfy the public interest," Bethel said.
Neither condo board president Ronni L. Rosenberg nor association attorney
Henry Howell Fox could be reached for comment.
The association's rule prohibits anyone from attaching, hanging, affixing
or displaying anything on the exterior walls, doors, balconies and
windows, which are considered common property controlled by the
Richter, 28, a lawyer, rented the two-bedroom apartment on Dec. 1 and,
using double-sided tape to prevent damage to the paint, put the mezuzah on
the doorpost. She said she didn't consider it a violation of the rules
because she saw Christmas wreaths on other doors.
Shortly afterward, the condo association ordered her to remove the
Incensed, she contacted newspapers and television stations. Eventually,
her case received national coverage.
The board on March 26 told her she could keep the mezuzah but did not give
a reason. The rule applied only in her case.
Richter said the board's response was too limited.
"The whole point all along was to make sure they don't impinge on
peoples' rights," she said. "I didn't want to see other condo
associations statewide acting like this, and apparently my goal hasn't
been reached yet."
McCollum's letter asks The Port board to respond to his demand by the
close of business today.
What he will do if he isn't satisfied could not be determined.
"I can't speculate at this point, but it's not an issue we'll be
dropping," said his spokeswoman, Sandi Copes. "We're prepared to
continue with whatever action is appropriate."
Meanwhile, Miami-based U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta on Wednesday said
he is keeping an eye on the case.
"There is a principle at stake here that goes beyond any
individual," he said. "We have assigned an attorney in the Fort
Lauderdale office to take a careful look at the facts and determine if a
federal lawsuit would be appropriate."