Group files lawsuit against Bay View Association for "religious discrimination"

Group files lawsuit against Bay View Association for "religious discrimination"

EMMET COUNTY, Mi (WPBN/WGTU) -- Seasonal religious community Bay View is facing a lawsuit.

It was filed by some of its own members, who say the community needs to be more inclusive.

According to Bay View Association rules, you must be a practicing Christian to buy property there.

Potential owners require proof from their church that they regularly attend, and are part of the association's vetting process.

The community, just north of Petoskey, consists of picturesque pieces of property, on Little Traverse Bay.

People only live there between May and October.

Don Duquette has owned a cottage there for almost 35 years.

He's been trying to get the rules changed since he found out he won't be able to pass his cottage down to his daughter.

“She’s married to a great guy who grew up Methodist, but they currently don’t go to any church, and because they don’t go to any active Christian church, she could never inherit our cottage," Duquette said. "I’d like to be able to leave the cottage to her and maybe my grandson some day, who’s four."

“One guy in particular, his family is celebrating 100 years in Bay View this summer," said Duquette. "But he’s married to a Jewish woman, his sons are being raised Jewish and it really grieves him that he will never be able to leave his cottage to his boys."

Don and a group of other members, along with people who have been denied ownership at Bay View, have filed a complaint in court.

The executive director of the Bay View Association did not want to do an interview, but did send a statement.

“Like most private associations, there are specific requirements for membership," part of the statement said. "Our membership requirements have been part of our 142 year history and we understand that some of our members or the general public may disagree with them. “

Bay View was given the authority to make rules like this under the 1889 Summer Resort Act, a Michigan Law which also allows them to do other things like collect taxes.

“Part of what’s going on here is that the First Amendment always, the constitution always trumps, it always controls over whatever other law or regulation or state law or anything else that might be in conflict, and so our claim is that the U.S. constitution, the First Amendment doesn’t allow Bay View to keep doing what it’s doing,” said Sarah Prescott, the attorney representing the group opposing the restriction.

While people who aren't Christian are not able to own at Bay View, they are allowed to rent cottages.

The group filing the complaint says that when Bay View was first created, it was open to anyone regardless of religion.

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