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I was raised in the LDS (Mormon) church and am an official member. I am currently attending college and rooming in an apartment complex owned by said church. To make a long story short, I am now seriously considering formally resigning from the church and am worried about how this will affect my living situation. One practically has to be a church member for an application to reside in this complex to be considered: 98% of the tenants are members. If being a non-member is hard enough, I can't imagine how it would be for a former member (culturally referred to as an apostate, with the term practically being a curse word in Mormon theology).

It's no secret that organizations cannot discriminate against individuals on religious basis. But when the time to renew my contract arrives, and I'm denied, or they terminate my residency immediately, do I have legal recourse? Also, I live in Michigan, with a state-level reinforcement of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Is enforcing religious neutrality in a housing complex owned by a church a 'compelling governmental interest'?

I'm also generally unaware of the LDS church's handling of legal affairs or how they'd react to this situation. Any research I've attempted to do has lead me to extremely biased sites. Any solid information is appreciated, as I may just be worried over nothing.

I also have the option to just fly under the radar and remain 'inactive' (but still on the records) until my economic situation changes and I can move out. However, I really don't want to feel like my hand is being forced.

Amendment: Apparently students at BYU (one of the church's largest universities) are expelled if they apostatize. How is this even legal?

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    This question reminds me of the sage: "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be smart?" Because your answer will lead you to different paths. – Alexanne Senger Sep 13 '15 at 23:27
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    @Mowzer Also remember the golden rule: "The man with the gold makes the rules" and "We have the best legal system money can buy" – Dale M Sep 13 '15 at 23:53
  • Thanks guys, I'm also wondering, does the LDS Church have an aggressive legal record? – The Militant Hobo Sep 14 '15 at 0:34
  • This makes me curious about the name of the owner of this property or of any other LDS-owned properties. Specifically in terms of who is the named party in a lawsuit. Does the church sue under their own name and get named as defendant in lawsuits or are their holdings under various corporations? – jqning Sep 14 '15 at 1:44
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    @TheMilitantHobo - You make it sound like there's a big conspiracy around this. The reality might be that their practices are both public and legal. Before you decide to play private investigator why not play public investigator? If, in fact, there's a conspiracy involving a large religious group I suspect that any number of journalists and disaffected members are standing by to break it open. – feetwet Sep 14 '15 at 21:16
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What that church is doing is legal. There is a statutory exception in the Fair Housing Act for religious and non-profit organizations.

42 U.S. Code § 3607 - Religious organization or private club exemption

Nothing in this subchapter shall prohibit a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, from limiting the sale, rental or occupancy of dwellings which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose to persons of the same religion, or from giving preference to such persons, unless membership in such religion is restricted on account of race, color, or national origin. Nor shall anything in this subchapter prohibit a private club not in fact open to the public, which as an incident to its primary purpose or purposes provides lodgings which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose, from limiting the rental or occupancy of such lodgings to its members or from giving preference to its members.

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  • God damn it (pun intended). – The Militant Hobo Sep 15 '15 at 0:42
  • Then again, this doesn't 'feel legal' because certain branches of this church operate for-profit (which I disagree with) and I think this apartment complex operates under a for-profit jurisdiction (but I'm not sure). I don't write the law, but if you're making money off of me, you sure as hell shouldn't have any right to discriminate against me under the umbrella of religion (non-profit is another story). Well, as an above post said, I can complain all I want, but life isn't fair. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ – The Militant Hobo Sep 15 '15 at 0:51
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    Note that the exemption also applies to "private clubs," which can operate at a profit so long as their primary purpose is not commercial. "Feeling legal" is not the standard by which the law operates. But while we're sharing feelings: something feels odd about your question: You want to stay in your apartment, while also removing your name from a list of members, and you haven't even confirmed whether the latter act would have a certain bearing on the former given that you're already in a lease. Is there a cost to keeping your name on the membership roster? Is the housing subsidized? – feetwet Sep 15 '15 at 1:31
  • There's no cost to keeping your name on the membership roster, past having a large body of peers thinking you believe something you don't, expecting you to come to church (and hounding you about it), holding you to a social critique (a strict one) dictated by the church, etc. I want to stay in my apartment for economic, social, and convenient reasons. It's hard to confirm that church membership is more than passively correlated to being a tenant, as any blunt question will (inevitably) trigger suspicion against me. Anything less than heart, mind, and soul can be considered heretical. – The Militant Hobo Sep 15 '15 at 21:18
  • That being said, I can confirm that BYU students have been expelled/evicted for apostatizing thus losing an 'ecclesiastical endorsement'. I can also confirm that apostates are held with deep contempt in this church's doctrine, with essentially the lowest ring of hell reserved for them. I'm pretty confident that my LDS peers won't be hostile, as malicious doctrine always looks different with a friend's face on it. However, I'm worried about a more aggressive response from church hierarchy, who my landlords report to. – The Militant Hobo Sep 15 '15 at 21:26
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Generally, an individual cannot be discriminated against on the basis of religion. However, churches have a large number of exemptions to this for some quite sensible reasons: for example, it is inconsistent with the objectives of the Catholic Church for their Cardinals to be atheists.

It is not clear that these exemptions would apply but you can bet that the lawyers for the LDS would make great efforts to convince a court that they do.

Notwithstanding, they could probably evict you without triggering discrimination - in your position you would need to scrupulously comply with every provision of your lease and the rules. If you step out of line, you're gone and there is no question of discrimination.

Remember, you have to prove on the balance of probabilities that they got rid of you for a prohibited reason. The legal system costs money and the LDS have more of that than you do. Everyone is equal before the law in the same way that everyone is equal on the sporting field - if you are good at the law or sports respectively or can afford to employ people who are you will win far more often then those that aren't.

Oh, and please don't complain that this isn't fair. Life isn't fair; get used to it.

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  • Thank you for the response, I found it quite informative. Don't worry, I know that the realm of law (and politics) is quite a game of who can put the dagger in who's back first. – The Militant Hobo Sep 14 '15 at 0:27
  • It's also worth noting that my family holds a certain level of authority and is well-connected in the church, and if anything were to go down, you can be sure as hell that it would create a certain level of unrest among the local LDS community. Would this be an effective deterrent (implied or explicitly stated) for me to use to my advantage? – The Militant Hobo Sep 14 '15 at 0:45
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    @The This is starting to stray from the law... :) – jimsug Sep 14 '15 at 0:52
  • Point taken, I'm not trying to sound like I'm blackmailing anyone, just asking if the social repercussions would be worth the legal expenditure. – The Militant Hobo Sep 14 '15 at 1:59
  • I'd also like to note that I'm not particularly bitter towards the church, I have many friends and family members that are 'active'. I've largely been exposed to the positive aspects of the church and am generally unsure of what will happen if/when I step into unfamiliar territory. Being the analytical person I am, I'm trying to run through all possible scenarios and entertaining all possibilities. I came hear hoping to get legal advice should things go sour, as y'all seem to be much more in-tune with legal stuff than I am. – The Militant Hobo Sep 14 '15 at 2:08

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