Michigan Woman Faces Civil Rights Complaint for Seeking a Christian Roommate
Published October 22, 2010
A civil rights complaint has been filed against a woman in Grand Rapids, Mich., who posted an advertisement at her church last July seeking a Christian roommate.
The ad "expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths,” according to the complaint filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.
"It's a violation to make, print or publish a discriminatory statement," Executive Director Nancy Haynes told Fox News. "There are no exemptions to that."
Haynes said the unnamed 31-year-old woman’s case was turned over to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Depending on the outcome of the case, she said, the woman could face several hundreds of dollars in fines and “fair housing training so it doesn’t happen again.”
Harold Core, director of public affairs with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, told the Grand Rapids Press that the Fair Housing Act prevents people from publishing an advertisement stating their preference of religion, race or handicap with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling.
But Joel Oster, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the woman free of charge, describes the case as "outrageous."
"Clearly this woman has a right to pick and choose who she wants to live with," he said.
"Christians shouldn't live in fear of being punished by the government for being Christians. It is completely absurd to try to penalize a single Christian woman for privately seeking a Christian roommate at church -- an obviously legal and constitutionally protected activity."
Haynes said the person who filed the initial complaint saw the ad on the church bulletin board and contacted the local fair housing organization.
The ad included the words, "Christian roommate wanted," along with the woman's contact information. Had the ad not included the word "Christian," Haynes said, it would not have been illegal.
"If you read it and you were not Christian, would you not feel welcome to rent there?" Haynes asked.
Oster said he hopes the case will eventually be dropped and that he's sent a letter to the state asking the authorities to dismiss the case as groundless.
"The First Amendment guarantees us Freedom of Religion," he said. "And we have the right to live with someone of the same faith. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is denying her rights by pursuing this complaint."
But Haynes said officials plan on pursuing the matter.
"We want to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.
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