Is a homeowners association limiting religious expression in the front yard of a Rio Rancho man’s home?

One neighbor is asking that question after he was recently told by a homeowners association to remove a statue of a Catholic saint from his yard, years after he says he was given permission to put it up.

The man who owns the home, Bill Maldonado, says his small, roughly two foot tall Our Lady of Guadalupe statue has been in his front yard for nearly a decade.

But just last week, right before Easter, Maldonado says his Hidden Valley Homeowners Association told him he had two weeks to remove the statue.

Maldonado called it upsetting.

I was not very happy when I received the letter,” said Maldonado. “And to make things even worse, it’s Holy Thursday of Holy Week.”

In their letter, Hidden Valley Homeowners Association called the unmounted statue an “Architectural Control” change, writing “statue not approved.”

Maldonado is now fighting the HOA’s request to get rid of the statue for two reasons.

“It is my right for religious expression,” said Maldonado.

Maldonado also says he put the statue up shortly after moving into the northeast Rio Rancho home in 2009. 

“I looked for it to protect my home while I was gone,” said Maldonado.

He says the statue has been up for the last nine years with no problems, having never been noted in routine HOA inspections.

“I’m thinking you’ve got to be kidding me, I’ve had this statue in my front yard since November of 2009.”

Maldonado says he even got verbal permission for the statue’s placement before the home was even built, saying he spoke to home sale and homeowners association representatives in the past who told him it was OK.

The HOA didn’t return KRQE News 13’s call about the statue Monday. Several neighbors told KRQE News 13 that the statue didn’t bother them.

Maldonado says he will fight the statue’s removal, saying the symbol is also representative of his family’s religious heritage.

“Our family has been Roman Catholic for hundreds of years,” said Maldonado. “It’s just something that we have passed down through the generations.”

Maldonado told KRQE News 13 that at least one other neighbor was recently hit with similar removal requests from the HOA, over other non-religious structures and items in their front yards.

Maldonado says he hasn’t heard from the HOA in response to his protest, yet.

So far, the association has given Maldonado until April 10 to remove the statue.