Religion

‘Christian only’ town gets smacked with the reality of housing discrimination laws

There was once a time when you had to be Christian and white to live in Bay View, Michigan. More than a decade later, the race requirement was dropped, but the Christian prerequisite remains in place.

Even then, you still had to be the ‘right’ kind of Christian to live there. For example, the community would not allow the amount of Roman Catholics living there to exceed 10 percent. Even today, potential residents have to provide a letter of recommendation from a pastor.

According to the Bay View housing association, the community is run by an organization affiliated with the United Methodist Church and can therefore set their own rules as to who can live there, making them exempt from the same rules that apply to the public sector.

But as the Friendly Atheist‘s Hement Mehta points out, a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the Bay View Inclusiveness Group charged the community with violating the First Amendment, the federal Fair Housing Act, Michigan’s Constitution, and civil rights law.

The lawsuit stated that since the Bay View Association pays taxes and maintains a “state relegated police power,” they aren’t afforded the same ideological protections that religious institutions are.

Now, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has handed the complainants a major victory, declaring that the community is not exempt from housing discrimination laws.

In a letter to the Bay View Association, John Meade of HUD’s Midwest Regional Office wrote:

This letter is regarding the above complaint alleging that acts of discrimination have been committed in violation of the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the “Act”). The United State Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Region V, has determined that the Respondent Bay View Association has not met its burden to prove it is exempt from the federal Fair Housing Act. The investigation into the violations alleged by the Complainants shall now commence.

Now that the association’s only defense for discriminating against non-Christians has been rejected, it will be interesting to see how they move forward. The case is set to go before a judge in July.

Featured image via Bay View Association

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