For many Americans, Bay View, Michigan may be exactly the type of small town they think of when they think of idyllic communities they believe are part of “making America great again.”
Of course, part of the reason they might think that? Bay View is predominantly white, and by law, property owners must be Christian.
Yes, you read that right.
According to a law first introduced in 1947, and then strengthened in 1986 in a second wave of xenophobia (perhaps emboldened by Reagan’s presidency), prospective homeowners must provide evidence of their faith. Oh, and that faith must be Christian.
While some of this may be explained by Bay View’s origins—it began 140 years ago as a Methodist camping destination—that doesn’t make it’s current law any less prejudicial.
Oh, and if your family wants to will their home to you? Yeah, you still have to prove your Christianity. If you happen, like Jeremy Sheafer, who as a Christian was willed his family’s vacation home, to be married to a Jewish woman, as he is—you cannot legally leave that home for your wife. Nor can Sheafer will his home to his children—because according to the law, his children are viewed as mixed-religion.
Don’t worry, though, Bay View residents say they aren’t bigoted. Just don’t look too closely at their history—a history in which many of the town’s families have been associated at some point with the Ku Klux Klan, and a history which includes the fact that most of the law changes made in the 1940’s were motivated by skin color and creed.
In fact, lawyer Ralph Jernegan, who was at the time responsible for most of the changes made to the Bay View bylaws, was quite clear about his intentions: To make Bay View a home for white Christians, and white Christians alone.
Documents from the period in question, 1942 through 1947, make it quite clear that the changes were made in the spirit of a bigoted cleansing.
As the Guardian reports,
Employees or servants of all backgrounds were allowed to stay, but anybody else not fitting the white, Christian stipulations was given one night before being sent on their way.
Even now, most of the arguments are mostly of the public relations variety, rather than any sort of concrete action.
Notes Dick Crossland, one of the leading advocates for keeping the bigoted law in place,
“We accept anyone that wants to join the same way that Christ accepts anyone as Christian. We don’t discriminate against anything that you can’t change.”
Crossland went on to say that they would have been willing to make some sort of legacy exception for Sheafer’s family…but not for anyone else.
Anyone one is welcome to buy in Bay View, he says, as long as they are Christian.
Read more in the Guardian’s original story here.