Woman charged for posting ad seeking Christian roommate
A woman who posted an ad seeking a Christian roommate on her church bulletin board is being accused of violating the Fair Housing Act.
The complaint against the unnamed, 31-year-old woman was filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, a local nonprofit group under executive director Nancy Haynes, according to WOOD 8.
Haynes told Fox News, “It’s a violation to make, print or publish a discriminatory statement. There are no exemptions to that.” The complaint states the ad “expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths.”
Haynes told WOOD 8, “What if it said, ‘looking for a black roommate,’ or ‘looking for a white roommate’ or ‘looking for a Hispanic roommate’?” She said the case is now in the hands of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
Joel Oster of the Alliance Defense Fund, who is defending the woman, called it a constitutional issue. He told WOOD 8, “They’re quibbling. She has a first amendment right to free speech. She has a first amendment right to the free exercise of religion. And what they’re basically telling her is she cannot go out there and seek out a Christian roommate.”
Fox News reported that the Fair Housing Act does not allow people to publish an ad that states their preference of religion, race or handicap with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling. Harold Core, director of public affairs with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights said there are exemptions in the law for gender.
Oster called the case “outrageous,” adding, “Christians shouldn’t live in fear of being punished by the government for being Christians. Not content to just lock Christians and their beliefs into the four walls of their church or home, some groups also want to invade those walls and force their own ideas upon them by force of law,” The Christian Post reported.
Haynes told Fox News, “If you read it and you were not Christian, would you not feel welcome to rent there?” She said they will pursue the case as a lesson to others. If the unnamed woman loses, she may have to pay several hundred dollars and go through fair housing training.
Oster pointed out that the woman is not a landlord, just a single person seeking a roommate. He cited the 1968 U.S. Fair Housing Civil Rights Act and the Elliot Larsen Rights Act to show that the woman did not violate any federal law or state law, The Christian Post said.