The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently dismissed a civil rights complaint that charged a woman seeking a Christian roommate of housing discrimination.
After an investigation, the department determined that there was no reasonable cause for the allegation and that no discriminatory housing practice had occurred.
The complaint was filed in September by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan after a 31-year-old woman placed an ad on her church bulletin board. The ad stated, in part: "I am looking for a Christian roommate."
The Fair Housing Center contended "the statement expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths." The center accused the woman of violating the 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act which makes it illegal to make, print, or publish any notice, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling, that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, and sex, among other things.
Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster defended the woman in a letter last month, saying she is a single person, and not a landlord, and is not prohibited by law from seeking a Christian roommate.
The woman owns a three-bedroom house and no other residential property.
While HUD dismissed the complaint, it noted that such statements that indicate a preference based on religion are, in general, prohibited. But the housing department decided that in this specific matter, the Fair Housing Act was not violated.
"In light of the facts provided and after assessing the unique context of the advertisement and the roommate relationship involved in this particular situation potentially involving the sharing of personal religious beliefs, the Department defers to Constitutional considerations in reaching its conclusion. Accordingly, the Department finds that there is no reasonable cause to believe that the Act was violated in this matter."
Despite the dismissal, ADF says the fight is not over.
ADF pointed out that the city pays the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan for filing a specific number of housing discrimination complaints, according to a contract signed between the two entities.
"There is real concern when a special interest group like this center has a financial incentive from the city to file various complaints," said Oster. "This complaint should have never been brought. It is borderline frivolous to suggest that a single lady can be fined by the government simply for seeking a Christian female roommate to share her 900-square-foot house."
ADF also is considering filing a lawsuit to strike down the "anti-discrimination" housing law that it considers problematic.