11 March 2018 |   First Liberty Institute is asking Secretary Ben Carson and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to address a fair housing complaint involving an Adventist lay minister. First Liberty is a legal organization dealing exclusively with religious liberty issues. 

The complaint was filed on behalf of Donna Dunbar, a retired dietitian and current lay minister in the Adventist Church who was recently banned from holding a weekly small group Bible study in the social room of Cambridge House, her condominium building in Port Charlotte, Florida.

According to Wink News, Dunbar said that at first, the home owners’ association at the building asked her to get insurance for the group. She complied with the request. However, Dunbar was then told last month that she could no longer meet in the common area where her group had been meeting for the Bible study.

“They said that there would be no more prayers here, there would be no more anything here,” Dunbar said. “There was a sign in the organ downstairs that said, ‘No Christian Music Allowed.’”

The fair housing complaint filed with the HUD stated that residents at the condo building have been denied equal access to the condo building’s social room because religious meetings in the venue have been banned.

Attorneys from First Liberty Institute and Greenberg Traurig, P.A. contacted HUD Secretary Ben Carson. The legal representatives asked for a “full investigation and restoration of Donna Dunbar’s religious freedom,” according to a report by First Liberty. 

“The funny thing is that Donna could be studying the book of the month from Oprah Winfrey and that would be alright, but because it happens to be (a) religious book in nature, that is now forbidden,” said First Liberty representative Jeremy Dys to Wink News, adding that the condo association has violated fair housing laws since they instituted the ban on religious gatherings “without any notice or any prior information whatsoever, didn’t accept any prior comments or public comments about things.”

First Liberty Institute claims that the resolution has also led to the removal of religious items such as decorative crosses from doors in the building, a decorative angel fountain from a courtyard, and a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.

Carson and the HUD are being asked to investigate the matter and take all appropriate actions.

Donna Dunbar is a lay pastor in the Florida Conference, serving the Compass Communities SDA Company in Port Charlotte.

Ben Carson is an Adventist retired neurosurgeon. He launched an unsuccessful bid for the United States presidency, running as a Republican candidate in 2016. He was confirmed as HUD Secretary on February 2017.

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