The Bay View Association in Michigan Found a New Way to Keep Members Christian September 14, 2018

The Bay View Association in Michigan Found a New Way to Keep Members Christian

We’ve posted a lot about the Bay View Association of the United Methodist Church (in Michigan) because they had a rule that members had to be Christian. The rule had been in place for decades — it initially said members also had to be white — but the pressure was on to change the by-laws after a lawsuit from the Bay View Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group.

Long story short, with their backs against the wall, the Association voted to rescind the Christian-only rule last month. Good news, right?! Not entirely. There were still problems with the by-laws. For example, the rules said the governing board had to be majority-Methodist and the Christian-only rule could always be overturned in the future.

According to a new report from the Petoskey News-Review, however, there’s another problem. The Inclusiveness group submitted a new exhibit to a federal court this week that shows how Bay View’s president, Jon Chism, urged membership committee chair Stan Sutton to keep the Christian-only rule in place by way of a loophole. Chism said Sutton’s group “must step up as the gatekeeper of Bay View’s Christian culture.”

The new membership protocols, according to Chism, should consist of a “rigorous” application process, requiring that new members sign the mission statement, list the United Methodist Church principles, disclose their religion or denomination “for demographic purposes only” and sit for an interview.

There must be a clear understanding during the interview that Bay View is a Christian community with a religious component and is affiliated with the UMC [United Methodist Church],” the email states.

Finally, the email encourages Sutton to give a “confidential evaluation” of other committee members to insure they are “supportive of this new responsibility.”

(Update: A reader notes that new members are not asked to “list the United Methodist Church principles,” but rather the principles will be listed on the application.)

In short, they wouldn’t have the Christian-only rule in writing, but they would do everything in their power to make sure potential members knew this was a Christian community. If, say, a Muslim family wanted to join, they might be discouraged by all the Christian hurdles they’d have to overcome to feel welcome there.

In court documents and statements to the News-Review, Sarah Prescott, attorney for the Bay View Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group, said she believes the email demonstrates that the Bay View administration cannot be trusted to discontinue discriminatory practices after the bylaw amendment. In her court briefing filed late Tuesday, she asked U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney to grant relief for her clients’ discrimination claims.

“The Bay View case is not over and shows no signs of being over any time soon, since its Board has shown it never had any intention of anything but continuing the old discriminatory practices under a new bylaw,” she said in an email to the News-Review.

It’s not the first example of a community unable to police itself. It’s time for the courts and local officials to punish them for trying to institute a religious test for membership.

(Image via Facebook. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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