An outraged Pittsburgh family is currently involved in a dispute with their homeowners association, after a 150 pound cement Virgin Mary statue, which was located just below the window of their Robinson Township condo, was, as they claim, "stolen" by the association. As an annoyed Steven Vasko told news channel KDKA2, "I had a Blessed Mother statue sitting out here. It was taken, the association — they stole it."
The HOA did indeed remove the statue, saying the land where it was located was common ground, and that no one is allowed to display anything on it. HOA papers also show that the Vaskos accrued more than $4,000 in fines, levied each month for violating policy. And this isn't the first time an icon of Jesus' mother met with an HOA's disapproval: earlier this year, an Ohio woman was also told to remove a Virgin Mary statue from outside of her condo. Vasko wondered, "Would that be extortion or kidnapping? You tell me, I don't know."
The HOA is holding the statue until the Vaskos settle up, and have also rescinded their parking privileges on the property. Vasko made clear his feelings about the quarrel, saying:
"This is religious persecution. This is discrimination. Is it a losing battle to hold your ground? No? If you are, then we might as well all quit as Americans and say, 'Have a nice day, bye.' I made a promise to the Blessed Mother and I'm keeping it. And this is about her. This isn't about me."
This would appear to be, on the face of it, a cut-and-dried case. HOA's are not subject to the constitutional constraints that public government must abide by. But they have been criticized for their arbitrary behavior, and there have even been cases of embezzlement. One wonders if the reaction would have been the same had the Vaskos had a statue of a snowman instead of the Virgin Mary. The case looks like it's headed for court.