The northern Michigan town of Bay View has settled a lawsuit over its former law prohibiting non-Christians from owning homes, agreeing to federal oversight that will enforce anti-religious discrimination measures.
For the next five years, the U.S. Department of Justice will oversee home purchases in the small town, where until 2018, local bylaws said that only those of “Christian persuasion” could purchase homes.
As part of this week’s settlement, the town must eliminate all religious conditions surrounding homeownership, as well as a bylaw that mandated a majority of its trustees be Methodist.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2017, when Bay View’s bylaw explicitly forbidding homeownership by non-Christians was still in effect. When that law was repealed last year, however, softer language was added that federal attorneys from Michigan’s Western District Court argued still unfairly elevated Christians over non-Christians. According to the Detroit News, a judge is expected to approve the consent decree filed Tuesday in “several weeks.”
Bay View was founded in the late 19th century by a group of Methodists as part of a localized religious service called a “camp meeting.” Under the new bylaws laid out in the proposed consent decree, members of the community will agree to “respect and preserve the history and values of the Association,” including its seasonal Methodist activities.
Bay View Board of Trustees President Jon Chism told the Detroit News that he believes the decree “will be positively received throughout Bay View and allow us to focus on reconciliation.”
In a statement, the plaintiffs in the case said that “Bay View will be stronger than ever as it aligns with federal and state law.”