For decades, there's been a small, Christian-only town tucked in the top of Michigan, right along the Little Traverse Bay. It's existed quietly for years, but now the federal government is stepping in to question its constitutionality.
United Methodist Church, a local congregation, established the Bay View Association in 1942, and its officers agreed that anyone coming to live on the property owned by the group needed to meet two qualifications: They had to be Christian, and they had to be white.
The latter requirement was dropped about 10 years after the town’s founding, though the religious prerequisite remains intact, Patheos reported.
There are stipulations, too, for Christians coming to live in the 133-person community. Potential Bay View dwellers are required to furnish a recommendation letter from a pastor, and there's a 10 percent quota on the total number of Roman Catholics allowed to live in the resort town.
Who's challenging Bay View now?
There are north of 400 privately owned cottages in the small Michigan town. In 2016, more than 15 people filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a local NPR affiliate reported.
The group of complainants believes Bay View is violating the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act, which prohibits housing discrimination based upon a potential purchaser's religious beliefs.
And HUD appears to be siding with those who signed onto the lawsuit, stating the Bay View Association “has not met its burden to prove it is exempt from the federal Fair Housing Act,” noting an investigation into potential federal violations “shall now commence.”
What is Bay View saying?
Members of the Bay View Association are arguing they can limit ownership solely to Christians because the small town is — in their view — exempt from fair housing regulations because it's linked to the church, a religious organization.
It should be noted the complainants don't feel the association's argument holds water, claiming the resort town operates independent of the church, pays taxes, and it maintains and makes use of “state-delegated police power.”