So let’s say you’re a single person who would like to have a roommate–someone to help with expenses, talk to in the evenings, that sort of thing. You go to the church of which you’re a member, you put a notice on the bulletin board in the foyer letting folks know you’re looking for a roommate, and so that people won’t steer people your way that you wouldn’t want to live with, you specify that you want a Christian. No big deal, right? The Grand Rapids Press says, think again:
The 31-year-old nursing student was looking to keep her expenses down when she decided to invite someone to share her home.
But when she posted an advertisement for a Christian roommate on her local church’s bulletin board, the Grand Rapids woman landed in the middle of a civil rights debate that has her facing a complaint of alleged illegal housing discrimination.
The advertisement contained the sentence, “I am looking for a Christian roommate,” said Joel Oster, senior litigation counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the woman.
Someone saw the ad over the summer and anonymously filed a civil rights complaint with the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan. The complaint was then filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and the woman was notified at the end of September.
“I think it’s a clear violation on its face,” said Nancy L. Haynes, executive director of the local Fair Housing Center. “It’s an advertisement that clearly violates the Fair Housing Act.”
The problem, according to Haynes, apparently wasn’t that the woman wanted a Christian for a roommate, or that she wouldn’t have rented to a non-Christian. It’s that she said so out loud:
Although the woman might choose a roommate based on religion, say, after interviewing the person over coffee, she cannot publish an ad with that intent, Haynes said.
“She can choose to rent to a Christian, that’s her prerogative,” she said. “It’s a separate violation to make a discriminatory statement, to publish a discriminatory statement.”
So you can discriminate, but you can’t say that you’re planning on doing so. This could become a really big problem for the woman, according to an official from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights:
The MDCR might talk to witnesses, do site visits and request documents. In some cases, depending on the cooperation of the parties involved, a person found to have committed a civil rights violation might have to reimburse another individual who suffered damages, [director of public affairs Harold] Core said.
Except that no one could have suffered damages simply by reading the ad. The damage, if you want to call it that, would be if a non-Christian sought to rent the space and was turned down. But according to Haynes, the woman can do that, as long as she jumps through the right hoops. And the state will make sure that when it says jump, this woman will ask how high:
The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan might ask for an initial reimbursement of $300 for time spent on the issue and training for the woman, in addition to pulling down the ad, Haynes said.
“Our interest really lies in her getting some training so that this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Geez, at this rate the government will soon be trying to decree who can come to your house for a friendly gathering to study the Bible. Oh, wait…
Our house is a very, very fine house, at least until the state barges in, as Graham Nash and friends explain:
(Via the Christian Post.)