Bay View Homeowners Accuse Association of Enforcing Discriminatory Bylaw

“We need to become open-minded, because our community will be stronger if we have multiple points of view.”

Some people living in a Northern Michigan seasonal community are now filing a lawsuit against their association for what they say are discriminatory bylaws.

Bay View Association, near Petoskey, is facing a lawsuit.

The complaint says they deny non-practicing Christians from owning property there.

The complaint filed by past and present Bay View homeowners says the association’s laws violate First Amendment rights.

We spoke with current and former homeowners who say the association’s strict religious laws have only gotten stricter, forcing some of them to sell their homes.

“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,” said Bay View resident, Don Duquette.

Some Bay View residents are taking their complaints to court.

They want their association laws changed to make the community more inclusive.

“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,” Duquette explained.

Non-practicing Christians are not only denied from buying homes in Bay View, they also can’t inherit them.

It forced the Agria family to sell their long-time summer home.

“I couldn’t go to my daughters and say, ‘Why don’t you just go find a church some place, sign up, qualify for Bay View, then you never have to darken the doorway of that church again?’ We brought them up to be women of integrity, and I cannot blame them for saying ‘no, that’s wrong, we will not become religious.’ So we put the cottage on the market and sold it,” said John Agria.

They say the laws are discriminatory and against everything they thought Bay View represented.

“What I really loved about Bay View was that it was an opportunity to explore, there was so many different things to try. To see that not embraced, it’s a real tragedy. It’s become this uniformity, a place that wants everyone to look the same and, to me, that’s what Bay View was never supposed to be about,” explained Helice Agria, John’s daughter.

The association denied doing an interview with us, but stated they are a private association and that its requirements have been part of its 142-year history.

They say they understand that some members and the general public may disagree with them.

They issued the following statement in response:

The Bay View Association of the United Methodist Church is an ecumenical, private, voluntary membership, organization.  Unlike many other private properties and private associations, Bay View welcomes the public to our grounds and to experience our programming.   We are not a gated community and anyone, regardless of age, income, race, gender, national origin, or religion is welcome on our campus and to attend our events.  Like most private associations, there are specific requirements for membership.  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.    

I am aware that an unknown group calling themselves the “Bay View Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group” filed a lawsuit challenging Bay View’s Bylaws. We have never heard of this group and their use of Bay View’s name is misleading.  In no way is this group affiliated with Bay View Association.   

If in fact this group is comprised of members, it is unfortunate that they would first not identify themselves so that we could sit down and discuss their concerns. Our organization believes in working though disagreements concerning our bylaws outside of the court system.

At this point our legal counsel has been notified and we are confident that they will represent the interests of the Association as we move through legal process.