Friday, April 26, 2013

Religious discrimination

It's not a very great feeling when you are discriminated against based on your religion (or lack thereof).  I feel many religious people from where I am from feel that they are the are discriminated against often, and it would be nice if they realized it happens all too often to the non-religious class as well.
Alex and I are moving to Provo when we come back from Greece.  We found an apartment, had a family member go check it out, called the landlord on the phone and he offered us the place to rent.  The landlord said that if we wanted the apartment, he needed a deposit and first month that day, so we wired him the money.  Because he wanted the retainer so quickly, both parties decided that he would send us the contract the next day to look over.
A few days later, he sent us the contract, and as Alex and I were in the middle of finals, I asked him if I could look it over and call him about it the next week (this week).  That was fine with him.  Today, I looked it over, and I had several issues- but the main one was that the contract stated that tenants must follow BYU standards, and specifically stated no drinking and a few other things (like no opposite sex sleeping over).  Before this point, in the many phone calls with this man, nor in the ad for the property was it stated that tenants must follow the BYU standards.  When the landlord received the deposit, he had never made known this rule to us.
I called our landlord, and told him that I had an issue with the contract- that Alex and I are not LDS, and we do not follow BYU standards e.g. we drink coffee and we don't go to regular worship sessions.  I told him as well that while we are not the partying type, we do drink.  He very grumpily told me that I should have told him this the day that we got the contract.  I reminded him that I was in the middle of finals at the point and did not have readily available internet to read the contract.  He told me that if I had told 10 days ago (which is a lot longer than we really have had the contract) that we were not LDS, he would have told us that we should look elsewhere, because he wouldn't do business with us.  Now, since the renting date is so close, he said I had "forced him" because of the time, and that he or the other tenants were never to see us drinking, or to see beer cans in our garbage or us ever outside in the yard drinking.  He told me that we had to appear to follow BYU standards, so we wouldn't "create trouble."
I told him that if the tenants found issue with the way we were, we would talk to them about it.
At that point, we said our goodbyes and ended the call.
What I really wanted to say to him was that if he refused housing to us, he would be breaking the Utah Fair Housing Act- Utah Code Title 57 Chapter 21 Section 5, which states it is illegal to discriminate in renting to someone "because of a person's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, source of income, or disability."  In the precedence cases for this Act, it is very clearly stated that "religion" includes philosophies or the lack of belief.  In this circumstance, the landlord was willing to rent to us, even to take our deposit, when he thought we were a certain religion, following certain standards.  When he found out we were not of that religion, he was unwilling to rent to us, and only by a fluke we were still able to reside in the property.
I wish I could say all of this to this man, because I want him to know that it's not right.  Just because I don't follow his religion does not mean I am a immoral, bad, corrupt or unfit to rent his property.
This experience was just one example of outright discrimination that I feel I face being a non-religious person in my state.
It hurts.  It doesn't feel good.  I don't think it's right, and I know it's not legal.

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