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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hayden-area man with Christmas light extravaganza sues homeowners association for religious discrimination

Jeremy Morris stands next to his wife, Kristy, and their daughter, Savannah Claire, 3, in front of their home Dec. 18, 2014, in Hayden. Morris has sued his homeowners association for religious discrimination. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

A Hayden-area man with a Christmas light extravaganza is suing his homeowners association citing religious discrimination.

“I thought all that mattered was what rules say,” said Jeremy Morris. “I didn’t realize it kind of doesn’t matter because they still will do whatever they can to destroy you.”

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 13 in U.S. District Court, asks for $250,000 to “compensate Mr. and Mrs. Morris fully for their shock, humiliation, embarrassment, inconvenience, and economic loss.”

Morris and his wife purchased a home on Ferndale Drive in the West Hayden Estates subdivision in 2015. At that time the West Hayden Estates Homeowners Association Board attempted to stop the Christmas event, which drew thousands of people. The HOA said the event would be “offensive to the senses.”

An attorney representing the association sent Morris a certified letter stating, “The quiet residential neighborhood of West Hayden Estates First Addition is not an appropriate location for such activities, and I am confident that, if necessary, a court will prohibit your event from occurring in that neighborhood.”

Morris said he purchased the home “for the purpose of hosting an annual Christmas Program,” according to the suit. When he first purchased the home he offered to meet with HOA representatives, to discuss his planned event.

However, according to the lawsuit, the HOA board met without him and raised concerns about his Christmas show offending non-Christians in the neighborhood.

The HOA didn’t pursue a lawsuit against Morris. However, Morris claims members of the HOA continued to harass him throughout the 2015 holiday season. According to the suit, neighbors videotaped a death threat and called the police on the house for “legally parked vehicles.”

In 2016, Morris again held his Christmas show. He said HOA members continued to harass him by “throwing snowballs at buses, pretending to be hit by a bus while ‘fake-plowing’ the road at 8 p.m. without the plow running, boarding a bus and yelling at riders, and trespassing,” according to the suit.

According to Morris, about 10,000 people attended the show in 2016 over the course of five days. Morris said he donates any money he raises to local charities.

Morris said the HOA has no legal authority to block the show, and he chose to buy his house largely because he could still do the show.

In 2016, he added 10 more miles of lights, a camel, goats and “27 professional costumed-designed Bible characters” according to his Facebook page.

Morris said he didn’t plan to sue the HOA and had hoped for a peaceful resolution.

“My attitude all along has been working with people, how do I do this?” he said.