Religious message in brickwork spurs legal fight.

So this Michigan couple has spent some $750,000 building their dream home and during construction they decide on a whim to have the bricklayer arrange some of the bricks on one outside wall so that they spell out the message “JESUS IS KING.” Not a problem, right? According to the Heather Lake Homeowners Association it certainly is and an initial court case between them and the home owners seemed to agree with them, but fortunately for the Heins an appeals court overturned this decision and the message is allowed to stay.

Court agrees with pair on Jesus message

After the three-story, cylindrical turret was built—complete with a saw-toothed top, just like a medieval castle—neighbors noticed the “JESUS IS KING” inscription.

Putting a religious message in the turret stones “was kind of an afterthought on the part of my client. He’s a Catholic gentleman and he’s in a Bible study program at his church. He got to talking with his brick mason and they came up with this,” said Constance Cumbey, the Heins’ attorney.

The mason, also a devout Christian, “got to talking about a Biblical passage that says something like, ‘If the people were silent, the stones would cry out.’ ”

“They said they could make these stones cry out. And they did.”

So did the home owners association.

“We filed suit because the construction didn’t conform with the plans as approved,” Heldt said. “It’s not the message, per se. . . . It would be just like having ‘M Go Blue’ up there—that wouldn’t be tasteful either.”

Cumbey argued before Judge Alice Gilbert that the inscription complied with the plans.

“There were no specific restrictions about how the bricks and other materials were to be arranged. And the plans had been approved,” she said. “It’s very tasteful. It’s not garish. You almost have to know it’s there to see it.”

Nevertheless, Gilbert eventually ordered the inscription removed. The Heins appealed and posted a $5,000 bond, allowing the lettering to stay while the case was pending.

This week, three judges of the state Court of Appeals reversed Gilbert’s decision.

I often rant and rave about religion showing up in inappropriate places such as the Ten Commandments on court house walls and when I do I advocate people who feel the need to display such messages make use of their own private property to do so. Here was a situation where someone did and they still got sued over it and that’s just wrong in my mind.

I’ve seen the wall in question on the local news and it’s hard to see anything to be upset about. If the message was lit-up with bright garish neon I could maybe see a complaint, but some bricks that happen to spell out a religious message (or even a pro-sports message) shouldn’t be anything to start a court case over. It’s their home for crying out loud, if they want to paint a friggin’ Jesus mural on one wall they should have the right to do so and I’d be the first to stand up in their defense. Hopefully the homeowners association won’t pursue this any further.

21 thoughts on “Religious message in brickwork spurs legal fight.

  1. I don’t disagree. They shouldn’t have to change brick. It is their house & they are paying good money for it. The brick work is not painted some bright color with a spotlight on it. Their beliefs are their beliefs, I don’t have to agree with them. Witnesses & Mormons are far more annoying. I wonder how well a pentagram would have went over….

    I have to wonder if there is something more to this story?

  2. I don’t know about a mural… there are reasons there are covenants and home owners’ associations. If the bricks aren’t garish and they fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, then it should be fine. However, they should have submitted the design when they filed for acceptance from the association. It’s the law, and there are very good reasons for it.

    They should just file the adjusted plans with the architectual committee and get them approved in the correct manner. If it’s not garish and fits in with the colors/looks/feel of the neighborhood, it shouldn’t have any problem getting approved.

    Once you get a neighbor who decides to do “his own thing” in your subdivision, you completely understand the reasoning behind all of this.

    If you don’t want a homeowners’ association “telling you what to do”, then go buy an acre or five of land somewhere outside of a subdivision and build all the hidden messages you’d like into the outside of your home. Otherwise, keep it inside, where it doesn’t mar or interrupt the look/feel/balance/harmony/whatever of the neighborhood.

    Just my .02… smile

  3. I’ve linked to a picture from a local paper of the stones in question. You really have to look closely to see the message and that’s part of why I think this whole thing is just stupid. Again, if it were something more like the guy who put up a huge lighted cross in his yard that I wrote about awhile back then I could see some reason to complain.

    I suppose my reaction comes in part from the whole “a man’s home is his castle” line of thinking that I was raised with combined with too many news stories over the years of homeowner associations suing over every potentially controversial decision a home owner makes. You do make a good point there Chari, though it does tend to encourage urban sprawl. I’ll have to be sure to consider these things when I finally get around to buying a home myself as I have some hellacious Yuletide lighting displays in mind…

  4. Chari’s right, and those issues are the crux of the matter; when you agree to be part of a homeowner’s association and agree to the covenants, you have a responsibility to abide by them. 

    Many associations get peeved not because the violation is so terrible, but because they weren’t asked for approval in advance.  There’s an essentially democratic process in place that wasn’t followed.

    Regrettably, if they don’t pursue the violation, they put themselves in the position of legally forfeiting their right to object later should someone *else* in the association decide to put up a much more objectionable, and more garish, decoration. 

    What one person is allowed to do, all can do.  These covenants are designed to protect the property values and best interests of everyone in the association.  It does lead to homogenization and a certain lack of individual self-expression, but them’s the breaks. 

    If you want to do whatever you want with the outside of your home, you really need to choose a property that is *NOT* governed by an association and its covenants.

    I suspect the family in question would be first in line, expecting the homeowner’s association to pursue the matter, should a neighbor of theirs erect a turret with the message that SATAN IS KING.

    You kind of have to wonder about a neighborhood where people’s houses have turrets, to begin with smile

  5. Reason 999 that I will never buy a house where there is a “homeowners association”.  I’m with Les on this as long as it doesn’t say something vulgar let them be.  But having friends who live in that particular sub I know they can be pricks, I wonder what will happen next.

  6. Did you guys know that according to Platonic definition, America is not a democracy at all?

    Plato defined oligarchy as “rule by the (few) rich over the (many) poor.” I read everyday about disparities between rich and poor, not just in America, but all over the world.

    In fact an oligarchic state is seen as split in two, in effect double standards, one applying to the rich the other to the poor.

    Anyway, I think democracy is flawed anyway. To work properly, the country needs to be a city. Even federalism does not appear to help.

    Even though Plato has his argument flaws, for a 2500 year old philosopher, a lot of his work is still politically relevent today.

    You want an end to the oligarchy?
    Vote in the philosopher-kings!

    Just a thought. (I had an exam on The Republic today.)

  7. Did you guys know that according to Platonic definition, America is not a democracy at all?

    That is because it is a Republic, has been since the beginning.

  8. Both republic and democracy seem to be states where the rule of the people is conveyed through their elected representatives. I don’t know what the difference is between the two, nor do I care.

    America at this moment in time definitely fits into the definition of a Oligarchy. (see above entry).

    The voting process is important, no doubt. But the politics of the U.S.A. at present seems designed to suit the rich (i.e. the minority) while the Middle Class and Working Class having to break their backs to support them.

    Just how it appears to me.

  9. A bit off the topic, but i was spending a lot of time with a mate (er…good friend, platonically) drinking whiskey in my room celebrating the end of an exam (students are the same everywhere) and he mentioned he believed in a personal saviour, i.e. Jesus. I felt a bit uncomfortable and explained why, that if he accepts that view then he necessarily accepts the view that his non-Christian friends fry in Hell, no matter how good/moral they were in their Earthly life.
    Needless to say, it got a bit uncomfortable and we went back to discussing women.

  10. America at this moment in time definitely fits into the definition of a Oligarchy. (see above entry).

    The voting process is important, no doubt. But the politics of the U.S.A. at present seems designed to suit the rich (i.e. the minority) while the Middle Class and Working Class having to break their backs to support them.

    I must say I disagree. Although I hear similar statements all the time.

    Although sometimes luck and timing play a part, “rich” and “poor” are not destinies handed out at birth. Rich people (generally) made good choices, are very smart or worked very hard for their money (often all). Poor people are generally people that have made their choices in life, be it education, motivation, etc., and the result of their choices is that they are poor, and for whatever reason, choose to stay that way by not doing what it takes to change their situation.

    I’ll say again before anyone starts rattling off the freak-show examples of rich people, I’m excluding the very lucky, the celebrity, and the just born-filthy-ass-rich. I’m talking about the everyday CEOs, etc. The, say, $200K+ per year type, with a nice investment portfolio, the ones you won’t read about in the tabloids.

    Now how exactly are the poor “breaking their backs to supports them”? So the CEO gives someone a job, and pays a person commensurate to the skill/service they have to offer, and now he’s just living on the backs of others? No, i don’t personally believe that.

    It all comes down to the fact that there are far more people only qualified to answer the phone, work the assemebly line, or sweep the floors than there are people qualified to do the CEOs job. That “rich CEO” is responsible for making sure EVERYONE has a job and a paycheck the coming day. 

    Employed people get paid for the skill, service, or education the bring to the table. If they want more money, you gotta have more to offer. The CEO has more to offer than the guy that sweeps the floor. The idea that the “rich” (CEO types) are just lucky, spoiled, worthless, overpaid figure-heads is mostly a fantasy held by the “poor”. All of the rich or exceedingly rich people I know personally are either brilliant or crazy or both. And they all work(ed) hard. They’ve got more to offer than the average Joe, why should they not reap the benefits?

    I don’t know a single rich person that was born or lucked into their money.

    In an oligarchy, the poor are held down by the rich and rendered helpless through laws or other regulations. Just having poor people present (who will always be the majority in any population of people) does not make an oligarchy. The neat thing is that the poor in America have every opportunity available to them that was available to the rich guy. They are not helpless.

  11. …and back to the topic (sorry, I got sidetracked), I agree with a previous poster. I’ve got no problem with it IF I can move in next door and put “All Hail Satan” on the turret or my house.

    Same with the Ten Commandments in the courthouse. Sure, if every other religious group and “religious group” (who’s to judge?) can put up a monument to their liking, and none takes center stage.

    Oh, don’t want the KKK (or [gasp] Atheist!) message in your courthouse or cul de sac? Then you can’t have yours either. End of story.

    Whichever way they want to go is fine with me, as long as it’s fair. I’ll play by either set of rules. But the uber-Christians can’t shout “freedom OF religion” while enjoying their “freedom [and protection] FROM [other] religions” if I can’t enjoy the same priviledge.

    If I have to read your turret, you’ll have to read mine. Or maybe we should just both stick with a nice limestone block pattern and not get into a pissin’ contest.

    And yeah, home owners associations in hoity toity neighborhoods are humorous as hell, assuming you don’t have to live in them. But some people like that sort of “control” over their surroundings and choose to live there. If you choose to live there, you signed yourself up to live by their rules.

    Problem is, there’s very few posh neighborhoods left where someone can build whatever whacky dreamhouse their heart desires, they seem to ALL be McMansion farms. Gone are the days of the neat neighborhood around the corner from me, where every million+ dollar home is a different achievement in style. Whacky, tacky, weird, and damned entertaining for a Sunday drive. “Oh, look at THAT one…ohmigod, how about THAT one”. Now, all the new neighborhoods look like the same damn mansion over and over. Two blocks into the neighborhood and I’m all but lost, having lost all bearings and landmarks, every house and yard looks the same as the last.

    A Pakistani restaurateur friend of mine just wants to build his dream home…a $900K+ ultra-modern ultra-trendy flat roof “monstrosity” as it would be called by the McMansion dwellers. But that’s what he wants, and he can’t find any lot of land (for a very large house) within the city limits that is free from suffocating “style” restrictions. But that’s an observation for some other thread….

  12. I personally think that the people should have proposed the idea to the rest of the neighbors, but really I have absolutely no respect for the fact that some people feel the need to place restrictions on the appearance of certain homes (what difference does it make?  Don’t we put up political posters all over the place come election time?).  It’s not overly garish (perhaps a bit gaudy, but not too noticeable), and the whole arguement seemed to center around personal bias more than it did the laws that were in effect.

    In other words: they think Jesus is king; WHO THE HELL CARES?!  But everybody’s already said that so there’s really no point in me restating it.

    Secondly, in regards to the court case with the Ten Commandments:
    The courthouse is not a place where religious beliefs are to be expressed or determined unless it has something to do with the law or the case itself, regardless whatever beliefs are expressed.  Leave “individuality” and “spirituality” to the private property owners – religion has no place in the courthouses.

    Thirdly, I would totally have to agree with Brandi on the “McMansions”.  I HATE cliche colonial architecture!  Boxes with windows in them – bring back the days of Frank Lloyd Wright!

  13. religion has no place in the courthouses.

    I know. I was actually being a smartass when I said “Whichever way they want to go is fine with me,”. Religion has no place there. But if they start allowing every whack-job religious nut who pays taxes to put up a monument of his own in the rotunda, the argument becomes more difficult.

    Still correct (that it doesn’t belong there) but more difficult to explain to the mental deficients among us. Why use a sledgehammer when a mallet will do? I find the “other religious monuments” argument to stop most people I run across in their tracks. If by some odd change they WOULDN’T have a problem with the Tenents of Islam in the rotunda, THEN I have to move on to why actually none of them belong there.

  14. The saddest part of all of this is that anytime
    a person has to submit to any “authority” in order to do what they want with their so called (private) property, it ceases to be private property. Any neighborhood associaton or zoning or tax of any kind is just another socialist baby step towards communism. By advocating any of the tenets of these “authorities” you are selling out your own property and freedom and future for a few bucks in property value which will in turn actually drop due to the law of supply and demand—for example—when every ones house looks the same, the supply goes up and the market value drops. So you are playing a sick sad joke upon yourself that will result in bigger govt. and more regulations. In effect, you are allowing your own greed to imprison you.

  15. Brandi Said:

    “I don’t know a single rich person that was born or lucked into their money. “

    I refer you to Paris Hilton and John F.Keddedy Jr.

    Or perhaps you just meant you don’t know anyone that comes from Old Money yourself.

  16. Or perhaps you just meant you don’t know anyone that comes from Old Money yourself.

    I meant myself. Wealthy people in real life, and I know more than my share due to strange life logistics (no, I am not one of them). I did not include tabloid celebrity royalty in my crossection of ‘the rich’. I think they are a very small percentage, but disproportionatly represent ‘the rich’ in the minds of many people.

    Damn this is an old thread. Just goes to show there’s not much I won’t repond to! (when up with insomnia…)

  17. Cumbey is incorrectly described as “Christian”, when, in fact, she is “Catholic”.  Don’t think there is a difference?  Think again!

  18. I always love it when someone tries to claim that Catholics are somehow not Christians while the Protestants supposedly are despite the fact that the latter is just a splinter group of the former.

  19. I can assure you that after thinking again, I arrive at the same conclusion. Mind you, I was a Catholic for a long time before Les de-converted me. Therefore you’re either being an idiot or lying.

    Protestant Heathen!

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