Christian-Only Michigan Town Isn’t Exempt from Housing Discrimination Laws

By Hemant Mehta

In 1942, the board of the Bay View Association of the United Methodist Church (in Michigan) said that anyone who owned a cottage on their property had to meet two requirements: They had to be white and they had to be Christian. (Those requirements, even more disturbingly, did not apply to “servants within a household” or employees.)

They wisely dropped the “white” requirement more than a decade later, but the Christian requirement remained. Only a certain kind of Christian, too — there was a 10% quota on the maximum number of Roman Catholics who could own property there even after the race requirement was dropped. (In one case, a Catholic doctor who bought a cottage was “required to sell due solely to his religion and the religious quota.”) Even now, prospective buyers have to include a recommendation letter from a pastor.

Defenders might say that private organizations are allowed to set their own membership rules, disgraceful as they might be to outsiders. And the Bay View Association is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, so it’s not subject to the same rules as public places.

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