Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dispute at Joplin, Mo., Senior Housing Complex over Religious Christmas Decorations

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dispute at Joplin, Mo., Senior Housing Complex over Religious Christmas Decorations

Article excerpt

JOPLIN, Mo. * Residents of a senior housing complex in Joplin say they are upset that managers required them to remove religious Christmas decorations from common areas throughout the 65-unit building.

Some residents of Mercy Village in Joplin said that for years they have used similar decorations such as Christmas trees, candles and Nativity scenes but were told to take down religious symbols this year, The Joplin Globe reported.

The complex's nonprofit owner, Denver-based Mercy Housing Inc., said it must follow the federal Fair Housing Act because it receives funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That act prohibits discrimination by housing providers on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability.

Resident Linda Hopper said the decorations in a second-floor public area made it feel welcoming and festive. But after the management's directive, all the decorations were taken down.

"It was like somebody brought in a vacuum cleaner and sucked the joy out," Hopper said.

A petition asking that residents be allowed to "celebrate Christmas as we deem fit and to put up any and all decorations as we desire in all the common areas," recently had 49 signatures.

Springfield attorney Dee Wampler, who works with Christian legal groups and other organizations, met with some Mercy Village residents and said he didn't anticipate any litigation over the matter.

But he said there was "no reason" for the dispute, citing a 1984 U. …

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