Topic: Society

Fine Print Trumps Kindness in Ocala

First we had the New York apartment residents who destroyed the nest of the city’s beloved red-tailed hawks. Then we had the apartment complex that evicted a resident because one of her guests tried to kill her. And now, ladies and gentleman, we present the third entry in the Ethics Scoreboard competition for the most ethically warped property-owners in the U.S.A.: the Majestic Oaks Homeowners Association of Ocala Florida! Let’s give them a big hand.

They sure look like a winner. When its board learned that a minister in the 500-home subdivision had traveled to New Orleans and planned to take in three families of evacuees, it moved swiftly. The Majestic Oaks Homeowners Association distributed a flier reminding its members that their deed restrictions prohibited housing additional people, even those displaced by the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Rather than allowing “additional families” into its community, residents were encouraged to contribute to hurricane relief funds instead. “These are single-family residences, and that’s what they were intended for,” Audrey Andrews, vice president of the homeowners association, said Monday. Andrews did say that association residents could bring in evacuees who are family members.

Gee, that’s big of them. The rule itself is a reasonable one, but any rules can encounter situations that make strict enforcement not only unwise but affirmatively wrong. The fact that human suffering on a massive scale isn’t sufficient to make the Association modify its restrictions for the short term shows a lack of caring and a near complete ignorance of ethical reciprocity, as in The Golden Rule. Contribute to relief funds instead! And how, exactly, does the Association think this will help the families that the minister wished to house? That statement demonstrates how frequently people give to charitable causes out of obligation or to meet expectations rather than because they genuinely care about the cause itself. As the entire country tries to devise ways to open its hearts, wallets, homes and resources for the thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Majestic Oaks Homeowners Association is dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in its deed provisions to block, rather than assist, an act of kindness, charity, mercy, and national solidarity.

In current vernacular this is called “just not getting it.” In technical terms, it’s called unethical.

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