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Second lawsuit alleges religious housing discrimination at Bay View

Bay View Association is made up of about 400 privately-owned cottages on Lake Michigan in Petoskey.

Bay View Association, a summer resort community in Petoskey, has been under fire for alleged housing discrimination. A group of homeowners has filed two lawsuit against the association, claiming it is violating housing discrimination laws by requiring homeowners to practice a particular religion. They filed their second lawsuit last week.

The first suit

Bay View Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group filed their first lawsuit two years ago. The lawsuit alleged Bay View's bylaw, which allowed only practicing Christians to own homes, was illegal.

Then in August 2018, Bay View changed that rule, opening up membership and homeownership to anyone of any faith. Now members are not asked about their faith when they apply to Bay View, but they do have to agree to respect the principles of the United Methodist Church and Bay Views' mission to be an institution of Christian principles and values.

The second suit

But the plaintiffs say this is still religious discrimination and violates the federal Fair Housing Act.

One of the plaintiff's, Don Duquette, is Christian and says most of the plaintiffs are.

"It’s not religion we object to. In fact, we embrace religion," says Duquette. "What we object to is a mandatory imposition of a religious doctrine on everybody who lives in this great community."

The first lawsuit is pending with federal Judge Paul Mahoney in the Western District of Michigan. But Duquette says they filed the second suit to be crystal clear they still interpret the new membership rules as housing discrimination. 

Bay View Association says its current rules are legal. 

"Bay View believes it has meritorious defenses against all claims in the new lawsuit and will vigorously defend against this latest assault," the association wrote in a statement this week.

They say while members must respect the social principles of the United Methodist Church and support Bay View's mission, these requirements are not a religious test.

"Respecting those principles does not require adherence to any religion or theology," the association wrote.

You can read their entire statement here. 

HUD claim

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development got involved last year. This February, a HUD review found Bay View was violating the Fair Housing Act.

"That allegation was made without consultation with Bay View and before release of the new membership application materials," representatives for Bay View wrote. "Bay View believes that it can show that its implementation of the new requirements fully complies with applicable law."

In May, all parties, including HUD representatives, are scheduled to go to mediation. If mediation fails, HUD is expected to officially file their claim against Bay View in June.

This story was featured in Points North. You can hear the entire episode here.

Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.