Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
Published December 22, 2015
A condo association in West Palm’s Lands of the President
development is threatening resident Donna Sozzio with a fine of $100 a day.
Donna Sozzio’s “infraction” — placing a wreath on her condo door.
|In these days when religious
tolerance is such an issue, the resident of West Palm’s
Lands of the President complex can’t understand why she
should face a $100 a day fine for displaying a symbol of her
faith. The condo rule violates her religious freedoms, she
“No common areas or exterior surfaces of the Lands of the
President, Condominium Seven Association, Inc., shall be
decorated, furnished or rearranged by any individual owner
or group of owners in any manner, except with the written
approval of the Board of Directors,” according to notices
placed at her door.
areas or exterior surfaces of the Lands of the President,
Condominium Seven Association, Inc., shall be decorated,
furnished or rearranged by any individual owner or group of
owners in any manner, except with the written approval of
the Board of Directors,” according to notices placed at her
Donna Sozzio has taken down the wreath hanging on her
front door after being put on notice that there would be a $100 a
day fine from her condo association. It is against condo rules in
West Palm Beach, Florida on December 18, 2015.
Residents can decorate their condos and balconies until New Year’s Day, it
says, “but the hallways must be free of any decoration.”
“I feel like I’m being bullied. It’s very intimidating,” Sozzio says.
She tossed the first notice away a couple of weeks ago because she thought
it was ridiculous. When the second one came on Thursday, she pulled down the
wreath, afraid they’d come after her for the money. But she replaced it with
a small cross.
Sozzio, who lives in Jefferson Tower, at 2425 Presidential Way, notes that
many doorposts in the 20-story building sport mezuzahs, Jewish symbols of
faith, year round. And she quizzed doormen at several other buildings in the
complex and learned no one else banned wreaths.
Association manager Bryan Wohlust, who signed the notices, said in a phone
message Friday evening that the condo rule is only meant to restrict the
size of items displayed. “It has nothing to do with religion or anything
Florida condo law allows religious displays on doors, within size limits,
says Michael Chapnick, a property owner association lawyer based in West
“An association may not refuse a request of a unit owner for a reasonable
accommodation for the attachments on the mantle or frame of the door of the
unit owner of a religious object not to exceed 3 inches wide, 6 inches high,
and 1 1/2 inches deep,” according to Section 718.113 of Florida Statutes.
That law stemmed from a Miami case several years ago in which a condo
association prohibited an owner from putting up a mezuzah, Chapnick says.
Sozzio says the restriction still rankles her, and that her cross is bigger
than 6 inches high.
“Based on our constitution of our Founding Fathers, we have the right to
express our religious beliefs as we see fit,” she says. “To me, by not being
able to have this wreath, it’s limiting the freedom of speech. To me it
represents Jesus being born. It’s what our faith is based on and you’re
removing that. You’re tampering with what I believe in.
“In this country, the people in it are supposed to accept whether you
believe in God, Christianity or whatever. You’re supposed to be accepting of
that … I should be able to enjoy the meaning of Christmas.”