Michigan Cottage Community Challenged on ‘Religious Test’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (CN) – A summer resort in Michigan faces a federal complaint for restricting ownership to practicing Christians, more than 50 years after doing away with a race requirement.

Leading the July 10 challenge against the Bay View Association of the United Methodist Church is a so-called inclusiveness group.

The group purports to have a diverse membership, including members of the public interested in buying one of the Bay View lodgings, just northeast of Petoskey, Michigan, as well as existing owners who wish their community was “religiously diverse and free.”

Some of the existing owners have spouses, children and grandchildren unable to inherit Bay View cottages, according to the complaint, because they do not meet “the religious test” to which Bay View subjects its owners.

This situation “interrupts a family tradition of as much as six generations,” according to the complaint, which notes that Bay View was founded in 1875.

In addition to fouling up inheritances, owners say the religious test keeps them from selling their units to potential atheists, agnostics or non-Christians on the open market.

The Bay View Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group says religion became a stumbling block for the community back in 1942 when Bay View “roll[ed] back almost 70 years of tolerance of religious diversity” by adopting a resolution that specified any prospective member must be “of the white race and a Christian who must provide acceptable and good recommendations.”

“By 1959,” according to the complaint, “the race requirement was eliminated, but the religious test remained.”

The challengers say Bay View has not been historically welcoming of all Christians, either, at one time imposing a cap on the number of Catholic members.

Bay View’s leadership has tried over the past 10 years to formally align itself with the United Methodist Church, according to the complaint.

The challengers want a federal judge to find that Bay View’s policies and practices violate the Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Federal Fair Housing Act.

They are represented by Sarah Prescott with Salvatore, Prescott & Porter PLLC in Northville, Mich.

The Bay View Association of the United Methodist Church has not responded to a request for comment.

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