A Michigan family believes that they are being unfairly discriminated against by their homeowners association (HOA) for their faith.
The Samona family, who lives in Novi, Mich., is now considering taking legal action after the HOA requested they remove a Virgin Mary statue that has stood in their yard since 2003.
The statue is more than just an ornament for the Samonas. According to the Detroit Free Press, every time a member of the family leaves their home in the Tollgate Woods neighborhood, they stop to pray to the statue, and when they return home, they stop again.
On Tuesday, however, the family received a letter from Kramer-Triad Management Group, the managing agent for the Tollgate Homeowners Association, requesting that the family mow their grass, trim the weeds and remove six statues from their yard – including the one-foot tall Virgin Mary.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this is an attack on our religion," Joseph Samona, who lives at the home with his parents, told the Detroit Free Press.
Speaking with The Oakland Press, Samona claims other neighbors who have lawn ornaments in their yard have not received a similar letter from the HOA.
"The association is arbitrarily enforcing the rules to the home owners," Samona said. "We don't like to throw the religious card around because that's not who we are, but we do believe this is a religiously-motivated letter."
The family claims that the group has targeted their religious decorations in the past.
In 2005, the family was asked to remove their lawn nativity scene. They responded by hiring a lawyer. After garnering media attention, the HOA backed down, the Detroit Free Press reported .
The HOA initially asked the family to remove the Virgin Mary statue in 2009, but when the family did not respond, the issue was never addressed by the group.
While a representative of Kramer-Triad Management Group did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment, the letter it sent the family says that the statue was in violation of the association's bylaws.
On Friday, the family sent the HOA a response in which they requested to discuss the matter during the next scheduled board of directors meeting, which Samona shared on Facebook.
"If this harassment and religious intimidation does not cease immediately, we will seek all possible legal remedies and not only name the association in legal proceedings, but also each and every member of the board of directors," the letter reads in part. "We do also hereby ask that a letter rescinding any and all violation notices be sent to us within 10 days of receipt of this letter. Thank you for your time and concern."
Samona says that his family is deeply religious and that they had immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq decades ago in order to escape religious persecution for being Catholic.
"We're just looking to let people know that no matter what your faith is — whether it's Catholicism, Islam, Judaism — don't let anyone tell you that you have to back down from that," Samona said.
Joseph Samona did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
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