"The 31-year-old nursing student was looking to keep her expenses down when she decided to invite someone to share her home.
But when she posted an advertisement for a Christian roommate on her local church's bulletin board, the Grand Rapids woman landed in the middle of a civil rights debate that has her facing a complaint of alleged illegal housing discrimination.
The advertisement contained the sentence, "I am looking for a Christian roommate," said Joel Oster, senior litigation counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the woman.
Someone saw the ad over the summer and anonymously filed a civil rights complaint with the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan. The complaint was then filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and the woman was notified at the end of September.
"I think it's a clear violation on its face," said Nancy L. Haynes, executive director of the local Fair Housing Center. "It's an advertisement that clearly violates the Fair Housing Act."
Although the woman might choose a roommate based on religion, say, after interviewing the person over coffee, she cannot publish an ad with that intent, Haynes said.
The Alliance Defense Fund is a Christian legal group. In a statement released Thursday, Oster added, "Christians shouldn't live in fear of being punished by the government for being Christians. It is completely absurd to try to penalize a single Christian woman for privately seeking a Christian roommate at church -- an obviously legal and constitutionally protected activity.
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