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Religious group wins battle with HOA

A dispute over Bible study at a community in Bakersfield was resolved through a settlement. The matter began when an atheist complained about Bible study sessions being held in a common area. After receiving the complaint, all faith groups were restricted from using this area. The suspension began just before Thanksgiving 2016 and was lifted prior to the end of that year after a lawsuit was filed.

However, the matter was still not fully resolved as management said that it could reinstate the suspension again if it wanted to. The case had been scheduled to go to trial in May 2018, but a settlement was reached. The plaintiffs claimed that the homeowners association had made several concessions, but the exact terms of the compromise agreement were not mentioned. A legal organization called Pacific Justice Institute represented the plaintiffs in the matter.

Their lawsuit claimed that the HOA had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act as well as the Fair Employment and Housing Act. It also claimed that the HOA had intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the group and had violated its responsibility as a fiduciary. Ultimately, the Christians who were barred from using the common area for religious reasons claimed that they were entitled to protections similar to the First Amendment under state law.

Parties that are involved in an HOA dispute could have several options. It may be worthwhile to begin with informal discussions with management or others. If that doesn't work, it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney who may provide representation during settlement talks or a formal trial. Bringing an attorney into a matter may increase the odds of both sides negotiating in good faith.

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