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Illegal to Seek a Christian Roommate?

Jenny (not her real name) is a 31-year-old nursing student in Grand Rapids, and she’s got bills to pay. So she posted an ad on her church bulletin board for a Christian roommate to share her house. Makes perfect sense, right?

The next part doesn’t. Someone saw the ad and anonymously turned her in to the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, charging “discrimination.” That agency, in turn, turned her in to state authorities, who in turn sent the complaint all the way up to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“I think it’s a clear violation on its face,” said the head of the Fair Housing Center. “It’s an advertisement that clearly violates the Fair Housing Act.” See, Jenny could rent to a Christian, but “It’s a separate violation to make a discriminatory statement, to publish a discriminatory statement.”

Before it was done, Jenny had to get a lawyer to defend herself to the feds. Providentially, that’s what the Alliance Defense Fund is there for, and they did the job pro bono.

In the end, HUD cleared Jenny. But somehow their statement doing so didn’t exactly have the ring of something you’d hear in a free country. They insisted that ads mentioning religion are prohibited. But:

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.

If anyone thinks “No problem, it all worked out OK,” think about what things have come to. Post a note in your own church seeking someone to live in your own home, and someone – anyone – can turn you in to the government, anonymously. (What was a person who does such things even doing in a church?) You have to jump through hoops, and have a federal government, which has power over 300 million-plus people, evaluate “the unique context of the advertisement” and your “particular situation.”

Now ask: Does this kind of government bear any resemblance to the purposes for which God designed government? Modest purposes of basic civil order, such as “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness?”

If anyone wants to know why Christian citizens should be actively involved in government, and insistent on keeping it to its proper and decidedly limited role, just ask Jenny.

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About the Author

Matt Kaufman

Matt Kaufman has been a columnist for Boundless since the site’s founding in 1998, and did a stint as editor in 2002-2003. He’s also a former staffer and current contributing editor for Focus on the Family Citizen magazine. Matt is a freelance writer/editor who spent some years in Colorado, but gave up the mountains for the cornfields: He now lives in his hometown of Urbana, home of the University of Illinois. His house is a five minute drive from the one where he grew up, and he enjoys daily walks around the park where he used to play baseball.

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