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Pay us for harassing you

By this time, many of my readers have already seen the story about a woman in Michigan who faces civil rights charges for advertising on a church bulletin board for a Christian roommate to share her own home. The state is pursuing the charge, but evidently the claim is that it's contrary to federal law for her to do this, and the state is enforcing federal law. In this article, the PR director with the Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights seemed unsure as to whether what the woman did was against the law. He seems pretty sure by the time we get to this article. A complaint is actually being pursued against her by the state. (But if you think this can't happen elsewhere, let me stress that the claim is that this is a violation of federal law.)

Now, since I have at least one reader who will tell me, no matter what outrage I report, that there's nothing really bad going on here (either it didn't happen, or it's been misunderstood, or nothing will really come of it, or...or...or), let me be blunt: Either this woman's ad on a church bulletin board is illegal or it isn't. If it's illegal, that's incredibly outrageous, and things are worse than most of us thought they were. (Who would have believed that sticking a notice up on a church bulletin board subjected that notice to all the "anti-discrimination" provisions of the Federal Fair Housing Act? Better watch out next time you pass the word along via your local home school newsletter or e-mail list.) If it isn't illegal, what is going on is still outrageous, because this woman is being harassed by this complaint at all and because the state agency didn't simply laugh it off and tell the bullies and busybodies at the non-profit Fair Housing Center to go fly a kite and to apologize profusely to their victim on the way to the kite field. That a citizen in the United States should have to defend herself (and get a lawyer to help her defend herself) against legal action by a government department for such a perfectly legitimate and innocent act is outrageous, and that is happening, so something outrageous is happening, period.

This story says that "the state" wants the woman to reimburse the non-profit $300 for investigating her. A different story I read last night (which I can't now find) merely said that it is the non-profit that wants that. Who knows which it is or whether the poor victim's "punishment" will include the $300 to the organization. Imagine being the kind of person that this Nancy Haynes is: "You engaged in a perfectly innocent action that I get my knickers in a knot over. Somebody at your church spied on you and told us about it. We're not an arm of the state at all, but we specialize in sticking our noses into such aspects of other people's normal lives, so we spent some time investigating you and preparing to get you harassed by the government for this action that you, all unsuspecting, engaged in--attempting to get yourself a Christian roommate. Therefore, you should pay us for the time we took to do that."

That kind of person is sickening to think of--a kind of gigantic, caricatured horror of a Woman Involved in Public Matters. Imagine the local gossip and trouble-maker of past years, elevated into (in her own eyes) a glorious servant of the public weal, employed by a non-profit organization, who spends her life going around making people's lives a burden to them and then having the chutzpah to demand that her victims pay her for doing so. I won't say that anyone is beyond the reach of redemption, but I'm inclined to say that some murderers are nearer to the kingdom than self-congratulatory, normal-people-hating, left-wing totalitarians like Nancy Haynes.

Comments (56)

Well, that raises all kinds of questions about all the postings on all the bulletin boards at our private Christian college, doesn't it? Wow . . .

An acquaintance of mine is currently going through a three-year IRS audit because her tax accountant accidentally added an extra digit to the mileage claim on her 2008 return (she is a real estate agent). Never mind that it's virtually impossible to put 112,000 miles on a car in one year, and that she has the odometer readings from the car's service record to verify the fact that the entry was an error. That isn't good enough for Uncle Sam. After they denied her appeal, they came back and demanded to see her 2006 and 2007 returns as well.

Anyone wonder why we're hostile to big gummint 'round here?

I really think Dante needed to have a circle of the bureaucrats in Hell. And yes, employees of non-profits who work hand-in-glove with government agencies to get ordinary folks in trouble for normal life count as "bureaucrats" for purposes of this circle. Perhaps they could be forced by demons with whips to fill out meaningless forms that no one will ever read. Forever.

Interesting, if this were a bulletin board for personal ads, and if the woman had said, "Looking for SWF who is into leather for sensual encounters and a game of Monopoly," then she would protected by her "sexual orientation." Apparently, she should have said that she will only have sex with a Christian rather seeking her out as a roommate. What twisted times we live in.

Perhaps they could be forced by demons with whips to fill out meaningless forms that no one will ever read. Forever.

Oh, no. Surely you must build in some kind of special torment for when they get the forms wrong. (Probably built on an internal sense of shame & embarrassment, and horror that they screwed with "the system".) And then build in irritations, distractions, and demonic whims, which ensure they get the forms wrong.

Ah, now it makes sense.

Someone found a way to make money by harassing folks-- bet it's cheaper to pay them off and then buy their "tolerance class" or some BS than to take it through court.

The federal law in this case seems to be a cousin of the Commerce Clause nonsense that claims the authority to regulate private activity because it has some infinitesimal effect on interstate commerce. All of it seems to be aimed toward making us slaves instead of citizens.

Good idea, Tony.

Beth, I know: I thought about all the Christian organizations, churches, etc., including colleges, all over the country that have bulletin boards. They're not allowed to have some hand-written note stuck up on the bulletin board expressing a preference for a Christian roommate? We've gotta be kidding. And these are the same kind of people who will call conservatives "busybodies" etc.

Like to see them enforce this against Muslim organizations...

"Christians shouldn't live in fear of being punished by the government for being Christians."

And there needs to be a circle of eternal persecution for those who continually play the persecution card. It is quite likely that the busybody who filed the complaint would have been happy to do the same to a Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, or Wiccan. Gender isn't a protected class for advertising for roommates; I'd add religion and family status at a minimum. Given our still recent history (some of you are too young), race and national origin should still be out of bounds.

I hope ADF goes to court on this one and wins.

Well, thanks, Al, we appreciate your good wishes. Somehow, I think Ms. Haynes would have been a little more cautious about pursuing this against a Muslim, but that's just my conjecture.

It's my opinion that the pastor of the church should be saying some extremely tart things from the pulpit against whoever it was who anonymously started this whole thing off. What sort of church is it that has members that spy on each other over such harmless things?

Sadly, no dispensation, religious or secular, is free of those possessed of a totalitarian mindset.

Cases like this illustrate that egalitarian liberalism is a mortal enemy of the human good. Almost all functional human relationships involve trivial amounts of "discrimination". Normal, sane, healthy people form associations with other people who share their beliefs and values. This means that inegalitarian arrangements will arise *by nature* unless you empower the state to come in and force people to quit acting like normal, sane, healthy members of their species. Now, I think many egalitarians would be appalled by this case. "This is taking it too far." Maybe, but you can't get that genie back in the bottle now that you've set up all of these "equality enforcement" laws and institutions. If you want egalitarianism in practice, you are going to have to force it on people. And if you are going to force it on people, you will have to give the Nancy Hayneses of the world the power to wreck the lives of innocent people in this way.

Exactly, Untenured. It's worth asking: If the egalitarians are bothered by this, what do they think of the law that it supposedly enforces? Do they approve of it, want it changed, what? Would they have supported it when it first went into effect?

~~If you want egalitarianism in practice, you are going to have to force it on people~~

"I have none of the tenderer-than-thou
Collectivistic regimenting love
With which the modern world is being swept."

Robert Frost, "A Considerable Speck"

"Maybe, but you can't get that genie back in the bottle now that you've set up all of these "equality enforcement" laws and institutions."

Of course you can and were you familiar with the history of these laws you would know that tweaks of various sorts have been common. I do wonder if sub-section c isn't over-broad. i could speculate further but affairs call me to our southern border for a few days. I shall return.

I'll be surprised if someone hasn't already made this point, but, anyway...

I think that it is likely that the bureaucrats in question didn't expect a successful prosecution, or anything like that.

But this sort of complaint creates an environment where Christians need to continually apologise for even mentioning their faith in public. No one wants to be at the receiving end of an official investigation, even if they have acted properly.

So, imagine how a Christian teacher, or health worker, or social worker, feels reading a story like this.

It creates a mood where Christians are expected to keep their faith in the closet, and where Christians feel an obligation to keep their faith in a closet. After all, this is what etiquette will, eventually, demand.

It's a very subtle strategy, and I think it is very, very effective.


"Of course you can and were you familiar with the history of these laws you would know that tweaks of various sorts have been common"

You are talking about tweaking. I'm talking about the more basic fact that morally neutral arrangements in the private lives of citizens are, in principle and in practice, subject to intervention by bureaucrats. The capacity for this intervention is a necessary practical consequence of political egalitarianism. There has to be a way to enforce "fair" and equal outcomes when spontaneous human behaviors militate against them. That is the "genie"- the enforcement mechanisms themselves, not some matter of detail that can be "tweaked" by better bureaucratic controls.

Graham, I'm sure you are right about the attempted intimidation in the atmosphere, but I wouldn't be too sure about what they expected. It's interesting to me that we went in something like two days (I think something on that order) from the time when the story first broke--at first the PR guy with the civil rights department was sounding very dubious about the chances that this would go anywhere to his now affirming that the complaint is being pursued as prima facie legitimate. From the beginning, Ms. Nancy Haynes was definite: "The law is unequivocal. You can't publish something that says this." It's her business (what a business!) to know just how far the government is supposed to go in pursuing people for such innocent behaviors, and she was sure of her legal ground. So I suspect she thought that if her organization made a big enough noise and stood on the letter of the law, it _would_ be pursued, and she appears to have been right. All of which gives me the creeps.

Just argue that living with another Christian is a health issue. They can't prevent you from asking for a room mate without cats if you are allergic to them, can they? How can they argue against trying to prevent damage to your immortal soul? What's next: monks and nuns have to allow anyone to live in their monasterys and convents?

The Chicken

The Nancy woman has been in charge of this sort of stuff for at least 15 years.

Business must be good.

The good news is that undoubtedly the Justice Dept will step in soon and file suit against the state for trying to enforce federal law (a la Arizona)!

Gender isn't a protected class for advertising for roommates; I'd add religion and family status at a minimum. Given our still recent history (some of you are too young), race and national origin should still be out of bounds.

I am more than a little surprised that the law doesn't distinguish between a business that advertises apartments or houses for rent, and an individual letting a room in her own home. Regardless of the idea that race and national origin should be protected classes, even THESE important class protections should not be forced down the throat of an individual leasing a room in her own home. There is a huge, enormous difference between a business that makes a practice of only leasing to whites for "white neighborhoods", and an individual person's choice of who to rent and share their own living space to. Easily a big enough difference for the law to take note and make an exception. There cannot possibly be enough of a common good issue for the law to land on private individuals renting rooms in their own houses like this.


I suppose I'm applying British standards to this story. It wouldn't surprise me if a more sinister agenda was at work.

(That's just an observation about human nature, in case I'm accused of "Christian paranoia". We've all known individuals who would ruin a dozen careers to gain a trivial promotion, or would pay off workers for a small profit margin. Given what we know about human nature, it would be insane for Christians not to be worried at secularists abusing their power!)

But I think that it's worth keeping in mind that the mere threat of investigation is intimidating to anyone who endeavours to be conscientious and law abiding. It would be equivalent to a public shaming. A successful prosecution is not necessary.

It's a little like the campaign to stop Obama’s administration appointing Francis Collins as the Director of the National Institutes of Health is instructive. Jerry Coyne is still lamenting, and throwing cheap insults around.
What the campaign did achieve was the impression that any orthodox Religious Belief is in tension with high level Scientific Research, and the impression that researchers who want to get ahead will face opposition if they are outspoken believers.

A sobering thought for those at the bottom of the food chain on some campuses.

(What a world. You don't need to be right. You don't even need to achieve anything of substance. You just need a PR department and a media strategy, and in time, you'll get your way.)

You're absolutely right, Graham, that the threat is sufficiently serious to make trivial complaints worth making. And that sort of thing certainly _does_ happen--on both sides of the pond, I would imagine. I just fear that in this case the letter of the law may be, or appear sufficiently strongly to be, against the woman that the bullies expected both to make a good intimidation move _and_ to get her actually fined, made to go through "training," pay them money, what-have-you.

Nancy Haynes probably signed the APA petition, since they both share the belief that Christians not only have do not have a right to force their religion on others, they can't even force it on themselves.

Another irony is that the Christian woman, according to liberalism, may kick her child out of the only home he knows, her womb, but she may not treat strangers the same way. So, in the liberal universe, we have great obligations to strangers than to our own children.

The bureaucrats in Hell are told that only one of them can get out of Hell by filling out a long form with perfect penmenship as they all sit crammed side by side.


Yes, but on paper they're creating the best of all possible worlds.


Dumb question - what federal law prohibits an individual from specifying that she prefers a roommate of a particular religion? I'm a lawyer, but I am not aware of any such law.

Thanks Nobody for posting this link. Everyone should read the frightening fascistic BS published by our government on the HUD site. Imagine, you as a property owner, if you become a landlord, will have to rent to a schizophrenic alcoholic polyamorous S & M practitioner who watches online porno all night. Your beliefs and values--your understanding of your work and property as gifts of God--may be trampled upon by perverts and psychopaths, courtesy of your government

Robin asks: " what federal law prohibits an individual from specifying that she prefers a roommate of a particular religion?" Yes, if you are the property owner and you are advertising for a rental room. Read the HUD link published by Nobody above.

Liberalism is not about "liberty." IT's about coercing everyone to agree with its narrow and controversial vision of what ideal justice should look like.

Basic Facts About the Fair Housing Act

What Housing Is Covered?

The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

Well, I do see that there ARE some exceptions for owner-occupied buildings. I don't know if those exceptions cover this case, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Small Property & Owner Occupied
Fair Housing exemptions, sometimes called the "Mom & Pop" exemption applies to the following.
Individuals who own three single family homes, or less at any one time.
Owner-occupied buildings that have four units or less. The owner must reside in one of the units to claim the exemption.


http://rhol.org/fairhousing/index.htm#Senior Citizen Housing

Seems to me that this case is ripe for a reverse lawsuit for harassment. Get both the busybody at the NGO, and the idiot filing charges in the gov.

Tony, that's really strange. The guy who has waffled (Core, the PR rep. for the MI state civil rights office) mentioned an exemption for gender if there would be significantly shared space, but nothing on religion and no blanket exemption mentioned for people renting a room in their own home. That looks like a _blanket_ exemption for people renting their own home who own only one home.

Now, this is where ADF should reach for this very obvious and trivial point--if indeed it's this simple--rather than try to make a 1st amendment case out of it. Sometimes I do think they are too limited in the kinds of defenses they make.

Anybody want to weigh in on whether this is an obviously frivolous complaint based on what Tony has found?

When it comes to individuals renting rooms (as well as other categories) the right of the individual to discriminate is absolute. The issue revolves around sub-section c which relates to advertising.

In matters dealing with race, Under the Thirteenth Amendment Congress can prohibit anything relating to the badges and incidents of slavery. Anything relating to race or ethnicity is prohibited. "Whites only", "Irish need not apply", etc. are considered things that are corrosive to a civil society when set in print.

This case (if it goes that far) could be useful in drawing lines as to what constitutes advertising. It is far too broad as far as I'm concerned. A religious organization is already exempted as to housing that it owns and lets. A simple notice on a church bulletin board is as harmless as a notice specifying gender. The trick is drawing lines that allow unobjectionable discrimination to be communicated while limiting that which is harmful to the society as a whole.

Why have a law at all? We know what the absence of laws in this area led to.

Robin, it's 42 U.S.C. chapter 45

al: Why have a law at all? We know what the absence of laws in this area led to.
Liberty? Freedom? Happiness?

Thanks for the cites. It appears to me that the Fair Housing law would not apply to an individual seeking a roommate, provided she wasn't a "professional landlady." So I don't know where this agency is getting off. Looks to me like they were right the first time (when they said they didn't plan to pursue this alleged "violation.")

I bet they realize that $300 would be cheaper than the court costs of fighting them, and it would be... if she didn't have help.

At a guess, the ADF is trying to get the best bang for *their* buck while helping out the lady. Establish precedent and stuff.

I think Al has actually clarified it. Evidently, this is how it goes: One section of the law allows you actually to discriminate in practice if you're renting a room in your own home--that is, you're exempted. _However_, another section of the law forbids you to _advertise_ in a way that shows a preference on the basis of (among other things) religion, and this section does not contain an exemption for if you're advertising a room to rent in your own home. So the question concerns what counts as "advertising" and "publishing," etc.


Hey, it's my pet issue!

Since a court challenge probably won't work, I've been considering pushing reform legislation to loosen these advertising restrictions. It hadn't occurred to me that there's a nationwide network of Fair Housing Centers that will fight tooth and nail to preserve the annoying provisions I'd like to challenge.

And I only wanted to allow both the mentioning of a neighborhood church in an ad and its publication in religious venues or publications.

Blast it! This is going to be harder than I thought.

I'm pretty sure the ban on housing ads extends to religious publications, yes? Imagine how many small publications have not begun or have gone out of business because this revenue base was destroyed!

I'm pretty sure housing law says that one may only express a "preference" for the sex of one's roommate. There was a case a few years ago about a woman who ran afoul of this legalism in her ad.

Curiously, some "LGBT" groups have shied away from campaigning for laws against discrimination in housing. They like the benefits of self-segregation. And maybe the LGBT publications rely on housing ads too.

Lydia writes:

Better watch out next time you pass the word along via your local home school newsletter or e-mail list.

Does the FHA apply to a Facebook group even? Don't tell Big Sister, but I know several religious young adult internet groups which have "roommates wanted" sections.

If almost anybody can violate these laws without knowing it, there's a better chance they can be reformed.

"Liberty? Freedom? Happiness?"

I wish they would teach history in our schools.


Perhaps the religious situation has somewhat changed. When the law was passed, there was considerably less religious diversity in this country and LDS, RCs, and Jews had been subject to serious, sometimes violent discrimination in the past. The immigration of folks from southern Asia hadn't happened yet and in Judaism, the Orthodox were far fewer. Today more people have religious and non-religious dietary and other observance issues. Back then, indicating a religious preference was more likely to be based on bigotry; today, not so much. Laws need to change with the times. If this goes to court the briefs should be interesting as will the amici.

From the original link to 'Your Rights' on the Fair Housing site:

In Addition: It is illegal for anyone to:


Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.

Kevin Jones, the Facebook kind of question had already occurred to me. It gets ridiculous. I notice in the quotation Stephen Dawson has found it says "or make any statement." What's that supposed to mean? Do I have to whisper quietly only to my friends my preference for a Christian to live in my extra room? Or is even that "making a statement"?

The whole thing is nuts. But, yes, this is going to be harder than you might have thought: You're up against the feds.

You can have a preference in theory; you just can't ever be caught saying that you have a preference. Let Freedom Ring [tm].

al: what on earth do you think that the estimated 3,446 lynchings of African-Americans, between 1882 & 1968 have to do with the question on the table?

Ilion, you wrote on your blog:

"That you supposedly don't have the right to discriminate with respect to whom you will share your living quarters follows directly and inevitably from societal acceptance of the proposition that you do not have the right to discriminate with respect to whom you will rent your property in which you do not dwell. And, ultimately, it follows logically and inevitably from societal acceptance of the proposition that you do not have the right to discriminate with respect to whom you will serve at your lunch-counter."

The problem, of course, is that one currently has and always has had the right to "discriminate with respect to whom you will share your living quarters". You are simply wrong.

Also, "which is why Goldwater (no conservative, he) voted against the Act." I believe Goldwater was not in the Senate at the time the Fair Housing Act was passed. "No conservative he" is just weak.

Steve, Chucky posted this using a line from an earlier post of mine,

" al: Why have a law at all? We know what the absence of laws in this area led to."

"Liberty? Freedom? Happiness?"

I was merely pointing out that the last time we were free to impose the badges and incidents of slavery on African Americans, the results were not "liberty, freedom, and happiness". Now, were we to go back to being able to racially discriminate would we inevitably go back to night-riders? I don't know but I don't want to run the experiment. I was only calling attention to the historical ignorance and underpants gnome thinking that assumes that removing laws and regulations magically results in something good.

Guys, the Fair Housing law has been amended to deal with seniors and the handicapped and policy decisions have been made with "sex". To the extent that indicating a religious preference communicates useful information it should be allowed. Rather then falling into conservo-speak on the evils of the feds, this might considered an opportunity.

An opportunity, Al? Well, you'll have to convince the feds to use the opportunity. I mean, it's not as though we can just change the law by saying "abracadabra." What do you have in mind?

Seems to me the easiest of the "opportunities" here is a change in law or reg that applies the exception of the owner-occupied rental to advertised rentals also. Simple to do, no? In this case, it would even have worked to apply the exception merely to NON-PAID advertising, which a notice on a bulletin board would be.

I am both in favor of noting what Al is insisting on here - that historical discrimination in housing caused severe evils in our country's life, evils affecting the common good, and in favor or recognizing that people can both have a preference, and exercise a preference, for living with (or without) certain other persons based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion, without doing something evil. To restrain the former, we have cut off the latter. This too has harmed the common good. The question is, is there a better way of putting an end to the former without causing the latter evil? Is there a way of now modifying the non-discrimination law to allow more liberty without bringing back the evils that were near-universal as recently as the 60's?

Let me explain a little of why I think a person can make a choice about who he lives near based on race without bigotry and without doing something evil. It is as simple as comfort, and as subtle as facial cues. I really enjoy some of the people I work with who are of different races: certain of the black people are a joy to work with. One is always cheerful, and as industrious as all get out. One of the Hispanics I work with is the most constantly nice person I know. One of the Indians in our office is extremely thoughtful. The Chinese woman who sits across from me invites me to learn and enjoy things Chinese that I would never be exposed to. But, to be quite frank, I am more than happy that not all of these people are living in the apartment with me, or in the next apartment over. The Chinese woman is constantly cooking food for lunch that smells just awful to me. I can stand it for an hour or two, but it would drive me mad if I had to smell it all the time. One of the Indians plays music that I just don't think is music at all. I would probably commit murder if I had to hear it through the walls more than once a week. One of the black people's facial expressions are so much different from what I am used to (he's from Ghana, by the way) that I can never read him the right way. (I am partly deaf, and use a lot of lip-reading and facial expressions). I would always be on tenterhooks trying to figure out what in the world he is talking about if I had to live in near proximity to him. There is NOTHING EVIL about not wanting to have to smell Chinese cooking, or listen to Indian music, or figure out a black person's facial expressions when I am at home, if I instead have the option of smelling Italian cooking as I walk by the neighbor's apartment, and listen to Vivaldi coming from the neighbor's living room, etc.

Home is where the usual things around you feel normal, feel like they are made for you. If you grew up in Little Italy, living in a ghetto of Miami won't feel like home. If you grew up surrounded by people who touch each other all the time (like some Hispanics do), you probably won't like living around the landed gentry of England. It is perfectly OK to have customs that one prefers, and sometimes those customs touch on nationality or race. Those preferences do not constitute bigotry. Preferring to live surrounded by those preferred characteristics does not constitute bigotry either.

Certainly not what Tony wrote :). Narrow your focus and broaden your appeal. Time constraints here but basically looking at the categories and playing "which of these is not like the others". If Sex distinctions and age can change, the definition of advertising and the scrutiny applied to things religious can change.

Practically, you would either have to start with the agency rule making body, or write your Congressman asking for a change to bemade. A petition with lots of signatures would probably be more helpful. Also, offer propsed wording for the rule as you would like it to be (not quite as easy as one may think).

Al: "Narrow your focus and broaden your appeal."

Sound advice. There's no reason for me to assume that USGov is entirely my enemy here, I think I'll see if any people in the Fair Housing movement actually agree with me. If they were all power-mad martinets, we'd have heard of more of these stories.

I suspect Democrats would actually be more important to reform than Republicans. They know how to work the system and aren't standing on the outside crying for its (very unlikely) abolition.

Is there a way of now modifying the non-discrimination law to allow more liberty without bringing back the evils that were near-universal as recently as the 60's?

The real question is what is the point of even bothering if there would be an explosion of such behavior when the restrictions are lifted?

It is a sad fact of life about humanity that we are, by nature, prone to tribalism. If we find that experiment a failure as Al feels it would be, we should simply abandon the ideals behind it. Instead, we should work toward accepting our tribalist tendencies and finding ways to refine them to be more civilized than try to suppress them.

(I'm one of the minority of non-liberals in metropolitan DC who genuinely has some empathy for the black majority of DC who want to keep DC black, so YMMV)

I am reminded of one of the distressing dichotomies in Pope Benedict's encyclical on economic matters (which would have been humorous if it hadn't come from such a source). On the one hand the encyclical insists that we must lean to work ever more closely in international circles in order to deal effectively with trans-national problems, like the movement of labor markets. On the other hand, the encyclical cries out against the loss of integrity of distinct peoples, whose customs are being eradicated and whose cultures damaged by influxes of non-assimilable thoughts, practices, and preferences from the world at large. Well Duh! You can't have the first without the second!

It seems to me obvious that a people has a right to keep their culture and their customs - if they can. But they don't have a right to keep it by simply demanding its own individual members reject outside cultural practices that those individuals may prefer, when such new practices are not offensive to good morals. That's the problem: some people see in various outsider practices things that present dangers to good morals embedded in or protected by the existing customs, where others see innovations that change the customs but not the morals. There is no possible way of proving which party is right (in some cases) other than by trying the experiment. But of course, that trial means some of the time you lose important customs protecting morals, and then the culture has lost another piece of its moral fabric.

It used to be the case that "a man's home is his castle". That seems to be long gone, if a man cannot advertise the rental of a part of his own home to whoever he prefers. There are not enough owner-occupied rentals, (compared to other rentals) for a change allowing discrimination here to damage society. And I think that of the existing owner-occupied rentals, there are extraordinarily few that are now cross-racial - people who feel strongly about renting to another race will figure out a way to avoid it regardless of the law - so that a change in the law would reduce the real options available by less than 0.1%. You can't damage society by relaxing the law to that extent.

"I am reminded of one of the distressing dichotomies in Pope Benedict's encyclical on economic matters ..."

I don't see that as a dichotomy, Tony, but rather as an attempt to keep two separate but related matters in balance. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition.

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