A Collin County judge has ruled against a North Texas homeowners association that was trying to prevent an Orthodox Jewish congregation from using the residential area as a place of worship. Judge Jill Willis' ruling comes just days before the Jewish holiday of Passover.
The Highlands of McKamy homeowners association in Dallas filed an injunction on April 7 asking the court to halt religious services in the neighborhood, citing breach of use. The Congregation Toras Chaim says it has been meeting at homes in the neighborhood for about three years without incident. A neighbor's lawsuit against the congregation is still pending.
"The HOA has never in its 30-plus years of existence ever sought to prevent a non-residential use other than the congregation's activities," the suit reads.
The Orthodox Jewish organization consists of about 30 North Dallas families; its rabbi lives in the Highlands of McKamy.
As Orthodox Jews are not permitted to drive on the Sabbath, members must live in walking distance of a synagogue. According to Congregation Toras Chaim, at most three cars are parked in front of the rabbi's home for services.
Due to zoning regulations in the surrounding area, moving the worship services outside of the neighborhood (and yet still within walking distance) is not an option. "The congregation has nowhere else to go if it is prevented from conducting activities in the Highlands of McKamy," a legal filing in the case reads.
In its argument against the injuction, Congregation Toras Chaim cited the fact that many people in the Highlands of McKamy use their homes for non-residential purposes, including holding swimming lessons and running assisted living facilities.
"The HOA has never in its 30-plus years of existence ever sought to prevent a non-residential use other than the congregation's activities," the filing reads.
Judge Willis sided with the congregation and denied the HOA's request to halt services pending the outcome of a neighbor's lawsuit, which has not yet been set for trial. The Liberty Institute in Plano released a statement praising her April 10 ruling.
"We are excited that we were able to successfully defend the religious liberty rights of this congregation on the eve of Passover," Liberty Institute attorney Justin Butterfield said. "Had the families of the congregation been deprived of the ability to freely worship this Passover, it would have be an egregious violation of their religious freedoms."