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Criminal Justice & Legal System

There’s a lawsuit unfolding in Bay View, where only Christians can own homes

Cottages, Bay View, Michigan, USA. Founded in 1875, Bay View is a religious resort community, an early version of a middle-to-upper class American resort.
Bobak Ha'Eri
/
Wikimedia Commons - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg
The Bay View Assocation faces a lawsuit that challenges its religion-based homeownership laws.

 

 

The resort community of Bay View is nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan. 

 

It is picturesque, but divided. 

Bay View requires that to own a home there, you must be a practicing Christian and that a pastor or church leader must verify that you are a church-goer. 

 

That rule has resulted in a lawsuit that argues it's discriminatory and violates the First Amendment, the Federal Fair Housing Act, along with Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

 

Sarah Prescott, a founding partner at Salvatore Prescott & Porter, and Dick Crossland, a longtime Bay View resident, joined Stateside to bring us both sides of the issue.

 

Prescott filed the civil rights and religious discrimination lawsuit on behalf of the Bay View Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group against the Bay View Association of the United Methodist Church. Crossland is seeking to preserve the membership rules.

 

Here are some facts on each side of this case:

  • Prescott said some of her clients on this case have shared stories of being unable to pass down their Bay View homes to non-practicing children or spouses in their wills. This is an “obvious First Amendment problem," she said.
  • Crossland said Bay View residents joined the community "knowing that those were the requirements and that they're very important requirements." Residents, he said, are familiar with the Christian mission and bylaws of the town.
  • Prescott said the town is currently operating as both a state and religious entity. "You can't have both," she said.
  • Crossland said if the town becomes a "quasi-government entity," then they'll have to end religious programs. "The religious program area, which a lot of us consider to be the strongest and most important of the four program areas, would completely be gone, and I think that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater," he said.

Listen to the conversation above to hear the full conversation.

 

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