Federal lawsuit alleges private Emmet county community is discriminatory

Jul 14, 2017

A lawsuit alleging religious discrimination was filed Monday against the Bay View Association, a private community in Emmet County.

The lawsuit alleges that owners are not allowed to pass down their cottages to children or spouses if those family members fail to pass a religious test.

It also alleges people have been denied membership on the basis of religion.

Sarah Prescott is an Attorney representing the group behind the suit. She said the religious test is illegal.

“If we substituted out of this that only white people could live here or no foreign born person could live here it sort of jumps off the page at you as being illegal.”

Prescott said the religious tests are a holdover from bylaws written in the 1940’s.

“What had been a community that had been open and had, for example had Jewish owners and families, really turned inward, really took an ugly turn and created new restrictions that said that people had to be of the caucasian race and the christian religion to be a part of the community.”

While racial restrictions were taken out of the Bay View bylaws, Prescott says the religious restrictions have lingered.

Officials with the Bay View Association say they disagree with this characterization of their history.

Prescott said membership in the community requires a written confirmation of church attendance.

“You have to have people vouch for you that you are actually an attending churchgoer in order to have this passed down in your parent's will or to buy into the community. Your initial purchase and entry into the organization is something that has to be confirmed through a church leader.”

Prescott said members of the Bay View Association have previously attempted to change the bylaws, but the new rules failed to pass by the necessary two thirds vote of the membership.

In a written statement, officials with the Bay View Association say they have not seen the suit but expect any court would uphold their bylaws.

Officials also said that members of the Association had more opportunities to work within the community to seek changes to the bylaws.