Friday, February 9, 2018

Is there a religious exemption for discrimination? Not what you'd think

That's the question, isn't it?  We all know the cake-baking story by now--there's a case before the Supreme Court in which a baker claims that he shouldn't have to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple, even though he happily makes wedding cakes for all  manner of other couples.

 Yet, in another case recently decided in a lower court in CA, the judge found that making a custom cake is an act of free speech.  It's the custom nature of the design that he protects.

Of course, we've seen across the Bible belt attempts to legislate and protect anti-gay discrimination, not just in bakeries but in other services--one of the more egregious was attempted under VP Mike Pence's tenure as Governor of Indiana.  LGBT people are routinely abused and denied services even in the absence of such legislation.

But here's a different example, that has nothing to do with Teh Gayz, from a resort town in Michigan.
In Bay View, only practicing Christians are allowed to buy houses, or even inherit them. 
Prospective homeowners, according to a bylaw introduced in 1947 and strengthened in 1986, are required to produce evidence of their faith by providing among other things a letter from a Christian minister testifying to their active participation in a church.

Last summer, a dozen current and former resident members filed a federal lawsuit against the town, its ruling Bay View Association and a real estate company, claiming the Christian litmus test was illegal and unconstitutional.
The real-world consequences of this seem clearly unjust.
Sheaffer, who defines himself as culturally Christian, is married to a Jewish woman who cannot inherit his home because of her religion. Under the existing rules, their two children, aged 11 and 14, themselves sixth-generation Bay Viewers, would also be barred from inheriting their father’s property because of their mixed religious makeup.
 Is it a church property?  Not really:
While the governing Bay View association enjoys 501(C)(3), or charity, status through an affiliation with the Methodist church, the homes on its land are sold at a profit by individuals on the marketplace. Four percent of all Bay View home sales are directed to association coffers, and current properties are listed between $120,000 and $1m.
I would think the Methodists would be a little concerned about being linked with this intolerance.  Heck, it would seem to be a no-brainer, right?  But it isn't.
Dick Crossland, a retired consultant who has been a leading voice for the preservation of membership rules, says he is saddened by the way in which the opposing group has portrayed the association and its board as bigoted. 
“We accept anyone that wants to join the same way that Christ accepts anyone as Christian. We don’t discriminate against anything that you can’t change,” he says. 
The debate has been hurting the community, says Crossland, who added he would have been willing to work on a “legacy solution” for Sheaffer’s family’s case – but not for the broader public.
Because once you let THOSE PEOPLE in, who knows what will happen?  It won't surprise you that this convenant was originally also linked to racial exclusion.  And, once that became illegal, Christianity could be a proxy.
much of the mid-century history of Bay View matches national trends, with racial segregation ending and white people doubling down on religious restrictions and creating private organizations in which they could control membership intake.
And of course, on the QT, these "good Christians" admit that most of them are not practicing the faith.

SO,  what do you think ?  Should Bay View HOA be able to impose a religious litmus test on home ownership?

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