The 7th Circuit, in a 2-1 opinion written by (Chicago law prof!) Frank Easterbrook, has held that an apartment which -- in the course of prohibiting all outside objects on doorways -- bars observant Jews from posting Mezuzot on the door frames does not violate the Fair Housing Act. Judge Diane Wood (also a Chicago law prof!) wrote the dissent, in which she noted that the prohibition effectively served as a red-line against selling to observant Jews. She also noted the charming argument by the condominium association in its brief that the Jewish plaintiffs were attempting to extract a "pound of flesh" in the case. The reference, of course, is to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice -- one of the most prominent Jewish villains in Western literature. Indeed, Judge Wood's summary of the facts shows a distressing pattern of, at best, insensitivity, at worst, prejudice, against the Jewish tenants here.
Judge Easterbrook argued that since the law was "neutral" with respect to religion (barring sports pennants right along with Mezuzot), it was thus permissible. This is a perfect example of my argument as to why "neutrality" in Church/State jurisprudence ends up providing insufficient protection to religious minorities, such as Jews.
First, Judge Wood's dissent makes it clear that, at the least, there are serious questions about whether the "neutral" interpretation of the rule in question was a deliberate guise for religion-specific hostility. Second, even if the interpretation was adopted with nothing but "indifference" to the consequences to Jews, it is facile to suggest that even the most ardent Bears fan is harmed in being barred from putting up a team pennant on his door the way that an Orthodox Jew is when she is prevented from putting up a Mezuzah. The banner of neutral principles does not work when grappling with fundamentally dissimilar cases. And the final point this case helps illuminate is how religious protection gets hinged on similarity to majority faiths. Had this rule been enforced only against Jews but not Christians, it'd clearly be illegal. But of course, there is no analogous religious obligation requiring objects on door frames in mainstream Christianity, so that's a moot point. And even more obviously, if Christianity did have such a requirement, then the rule and/or interpretation would never have been passed, because it would violate the conscience of the majority.
The New York Sun has more coverage.