Michigan resort sued for requiring property owners to be Christians

An upscale resort in Michigan is currently facing a lawsuit over a requirement that ownership of properties within the community should be limited to Christians only.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Bobak Ha'Eri)Cottages, Bay View, Michigan, USA. Founded in 1875, Bay View is a religious resort community, an early version of a middle-to-upper class American resort. 19 June 2009.

Northville attorney Sarah Prescott has filed a federal lawsuit against the Bay View Association of the United Methodist Group on behalf of the Bay View Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group in Michigan. The suit alleges that the upscale community discriminates against people on the basis of religion and goes against the federal Fair Housing Act, MLive relayed.

According to Atty. Prescott, the Bay View Association has restrictions on religion and a quota on Catholics. This requirement has reportedly upset some of the homeowners and prospective buyers, as there are some who cannot pass on their property to their spouse or children because of their religion.

Some of the Bay View residents told 9 and 10 News that the community's rules are unfair and illegal. They want the association laws to be changed to make them more inclusive.

"We feel that not only is this unfair and personally hurtful, but it's illegal. You can't have a religious test in a place like Bay View," resident Don Duquette told 9 and 10 News. "To be a cottage owner, one must be an active member of a Christian church. That actually excludes many people that we would like to have part of the community."

The Agria family was forced to sell their summer house in Bay View because of the restriction. John Agria said he could not force his daughters to become religious just to inherit his house.

Meanwhile, Bay View Association executive director Mike Spencer issued a statement acknowledging that some of the members of the community disagree with their membership requirements, but pointed out that theirs is "an ecumenical, private, voluntary membership, organization." Still, he maintains that the community welcomes everyone and that he is confident in the outcome of the case.