Membership in Bay View was originally open to all of “good moral character”. As its Membership Brochure states: Bay View is not a church or a denominational establishment, but a Christian institution of the broadest catholicity, welcoming to full membership all men and women of any or no denomination who have a desire to be part of a community as this and are willing to assist in perpetuating it according to the principles and purposes of its foundersBay View 25th Anniversary Brochure, 1900.  

First in the 1940s and again in the 1980s, attempts were made to redefine and limit those requirements, first to ‘Christians” and “Caucasions” only and then to a very limited concept of what constitutes “Christian”. Although the “Caucasian” requirement was dropped, the religious dimensions of membership remain a troubled issue.  For a History of Bay View, see HISTORY. 

Below is a political TIMELINE of the recent attempts to restore the original membership concept. Following it is a summary of the LEGAL MEMBERSHIP HISTORY.  At the very end of this page are links to some key documents related to the membership issue. A summary of the RELIGIOUS MEMBERSHIP issues are found in the section REFLECTIONS.


TIMELINE: Bay View Membership Controversy

2000 –  David Krause Research into Membership History is circulated.

2010 – Request made for community dialog on inclusive membership.

2011 –  First By-law Amendment on membership receives 48% vote.

2012 – Special summer-long 12-person Committee on Membership meets. Compromise reached. The next day the no-change group reneged.

2013Second By-law amendment on membership receives 52% vote. 16 of Bay View’s 18 clergy members support the amendment including all Methodist clergy.

2014 – Legal memo by three lawyers [Bay View members] submitted to BOT for winter board meeting. Arthur Anderson’s “Thoughts” circulated. No response received; no action taken. Complaint filed with Michigan Dept of Civil Rights – 3/24/14. Dismissed 10/30/14. Bay View “Listening” begins.

2015 –  Bay View “Listening” continues a second summer. Declaratory Judgment Action filed re vote quantum required to pass by-law. Court rejects interpretation that majority rules; sustains 2/3 requirement.

2016  – “Compromise” ballot proposal on membership fails to pass with 57% vote. November 22, 2016 – Complaints/legal memo submitted to HUD.

2017 – No action from BOT. HUD complaints pending. Civil Rights complaint filed in Federal Court – July 2017.

2018 – HUD determines Bay View has not met its burden to show that it is a religious organization entitled to an exemption to Federal Fair Housing Act. Investigation begins. Federal Court Case held oral argument on dispositive motions on 7/30/18.

2018 – Membership By-law Amendment reaches 70% support. Eliminates membership requirement “of Christian persuasion” and letter from clergy but substitutes another religious test that is also exclusionary and similarly illegal.



Bay View’s by-laws imposing a religious test for property ownership is against the law. In November 2016, after eight years of effort to change our rules internally, nineteen Bay View members filed complaints of religious discrimination in housing with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, Civil Rights Division. In July 2017, the Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging the religious discrimination in Bay View on broader civil rights and constitutional grounds. This page summarizes the external legal challenges and links the reader to the original documents related to these efforts.

These pages are organized to respond to the needs of our readers. A person wishing to get an overview of the legal actions can get it from this beginning section. Others may wish to probe deeper. And still others will opt to read everything available and maybe even ask us follow-up questions. We seek to make this information as convenient and useful as possible for our readers. Four sections follow: 1) HUD;  2) Federal District Court Case; 3) The Effect of the 2018 By-law Amendment on the legal cases, and 4) Issues Pending Before the Court


In November 2016, nineteen individual BV members filed complaints with HUD, Civil Rights Division as to Bay View’s religious discrimination in its membership policies and in particular, the requirement of a religious test in the sale of cottages. These members claim that Bay View violates the U.S. Constitution and the Federal Fair Housing Act. You can see a memorandum of law in support of these claims here HUD-Memo-11.22.16 Updated(7). The final page of the memo identifies seven controlling legal issues. If HUD decides against Bay View on any one of these grounds, Bay View is in violation of the law and could be ordered to change the membership rules and is liable for money damages.

If HUD determines any of the following:
1. Bay View is a state actor, a public body with designated governmental powers.
2. Bay View cottages are privately owned, not owned by the Bay View Association.
3. Bay View’s primary purpose is to provide an exclusive summer vacation community.
4. Bay View cottages are part of a homeowner’s association now managed by a for-profit subsidiary.
5. Bay View is independent and not controlled by any church.
6. Occupancy of Bay View is not limited to persons of the same religion.
7. Bay View cottage sales and rentals are for commercial, for profit, purposes.

Then: Bay View’s religious test for cottage ownership is against the law.

Bay View trustees argued that Bay View was exempt from Federal law because it is a religious institution.

On May 9, 2018 HUD authorities determined that Bay View did not meet its burden to prove it is exempt from the Federal Fair Housing Act as a religious institution. A detailed investigation into Bay View’s alleged legal violations was conducted in Summer and Fall 2018. HUD will make a formal determination of Bay View’s violation of law and what remedy, including monetary damages, will be appropriate. As of February 2019, a Determination of Violation was drafted by the Detroit Office, approved by the Chicago office and is pending final approval in Washington DC.


On July 17, 2017, the Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group filed a legal complaint in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The case is assigned to Judge Paul Maloney.

The legal grounds for the suit are as follows: Bay View is organized under the Summer Resort and Assembly Associations Act, Act 39 of 1889, MCL 455.51 et seq. and enjoys certain delegated governmental powers. As a public, quasi-governmental corporation Bay View is invested with powers and duties of government. Therefore, Bay View is bound by the United States and Michigan Constitutional prohibitions against establishment of religion and religious discrimination. Bay View’s religious discrimination in cottage ownership violates the U.S. and Michigan Constitutions, the Federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.) and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (MCL 32.2101 et. seq.). These civil rights laws make it unlawful to restrict home sales based on race, religion, gender, etc. The suit is for unspecified damages, and seeks a declaratory ruling striking the religious discrimination provisions from Bay View’s organizing documents.

The CIG Complaint 1-Complaint and Jury Demand-Full- 7’10’17  is available here. The Board of Trustees Brief is here BOT-Answer to Complaint and Affirmative Defenses 8’14’17.


The 2018 amendment to the BV By-laws moderated the previous religious test for membership by eliminating the requirement that the home owner be “of Christian persuasion” and the need for a clergy letter. The amendment passed with 69% support. The new text of the amendment is as follows:

[The Applicant] Agrees to respect the principles of the United Methodist Church and preserve the history and values of the Chautauqua movement. Applicants support the Bay View Association Mission:

To be an institution in which Christian values and traditions are central; To enrich the human experience for individuals and families within Bay View and the surrounding community through a seasonal program of religious, educational, cultural and recreational opportunities; to provide a Christian perspective in a changing world.

But the amendment substituted another religious test that is also exclusionary and similarly illegal. CIG says that while the amendment is an improvement, it still requires that a candidate be closely questioned – and judged — as to personal religious beliefs. After this invasion of personal privacy he or she may be denied the right to purchase property if their religious views do not conform to an acceptable orthodoxy. CIG were concerned that this language could be interpreted to continue the same regime of religious discrimination.

The CIG fears were vindicated when President Jon Chism provided this guidance to the membership committee four days after the August 2018 vote: “Interviewers should include a rigorous discussion of the Mission Statement, UMC principles and BV’s culture of volunteerism. 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.” [See the President’s full email here: Chism Email] Thus as interpreted by the current BOT, a religious test for home ownership in Bay View persists, just in a slightly modified form.

The Court asked both sides to submit briefs addressing what effect, if any, the by-law change had. CIG’s Brief is here CIG Brief on Impact of Change to Bay View Bylaws. The BOT brief is here Defendants’ Supplemental Brief in Support of Renewed Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings 9’11’18(2)


Currently the case is pending Judge Paul Maloney’s decision on cross-motions for Judgment on the Pleadings. CIG position is that there are no significant factual questions as to BV’s policy regarding cottage ownership and that as a matter of law, without need for further expensive discovery and trial, the court should find Bay View liable and move to a determination of the appropriate remedy for Bay View’s persistent violations of the law. See CIG Motion and Brief  here CIG-FINAL 12c motion&brief and also Plaintiff CIG Response in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Partial Judgement on the Pleadings

The Board of Trustees’ position is that the CIG lacks standing to bring a lawsuit and that the facts are not settled as to whether the Methodist Church controls Bay View. Further they allege that Bay View is not operating pursuant to delegated state powers and therefor does not have to extend constitutional protections to members and others.  Here is the Board of Trustees Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings 4’23’18.   A decision in favor of the CIG resolves this case most efficiently. If the Board’s position is upheld, the case will proceed to formal discovery and trial, which could take many more years to complete.



7/25/2018  Speech by Sarah Prescott, Award Winning Civil Rights lawyer and attorney for the plaintiffs in the religious discrimination lawsuit against the Bay View Association.  Ms. Prescott also is a cooperating attorney with the Michigan ACLU. Presented at the Bay View Inn at 7 PM on July 23, 2018. Civil Rights, Religious Freedom, and the Bay View Lawsuit. Click on the link and use the password BV to hear an audio of the full presentation.

7/25/2017 THE FACTS: Bay View’s Membership History, by Bay View member and attorney Arthur Anderson.

CORRESPONDENCE FROM CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY SARAH PRESCOTT to the Bay View Board of Trustees: Prescott letter – July 18, 2017;  Letter Received by the Board dated June 28, 2017 with Key Legal Points

Dear Bay View Friends and Neighbors,We want to alert you to our concerns about the proposed “responsibility” bylaw and to urge you to vote against it. As you probably know, it was drafted in the context of the membership controversy to encourage all of us to resolve our disputes without resorting to a legal or regulatory process. (Note that we do favor a more inclusive membership policy for Bay View). Unfortunately, if adopted, the bylaw would have an impact on the whole Bay View community well beyond the membership issue:

– The draft bylaw would apply to any member who pursues a regulatory or court decision on any matter and gets an unfavorable result.    – The draft bylaw would apply to Associate Members even though they have no right to vote on the proposal.    – The draft bylaw is not permissive; it is not that BV MAY charge a member for litigation costs. It says members who lose SHALL be charged regardless of the circumstances.  – Members would be charged even if they win. The draft bylaw says that if a final decision takes more than two years, members will have to pay BVs costs even if BV loses. It also says members will pay if they lose on more than half the counts, regardless of whether they win on the most substantive counts.  – We have been told that the draft bylaw is necessary to discourage “meritless” lawsuits and regulatory actions. This implies that any unsuccessful lawsuit or regulatory action is “meritless” even if it is dismissed on a procedural technicality.   – If adopted, this draft “responsibility” bylaw will lead to additional litigation. A member whose cottage is at stake is unlikely to sit by and allow the Association to take it without a civil rights challenge.  – If adopted, this draft bylaw could make it difficult to sell a BV cottage. A potential buyer would probably be concerned about joining an organization that has tried to discourage its members from pursuing their basic civil rights.

Please take these facts into account and vote “no” on the proposed “Responsibility” bylaw. It is an example of a well-intentioned idea that could actually create more problems than it solves. Please feel free to send this email on to family and friends who may be interested.

Sincerely, David and Lois Hager

ARCHIVED FROM;   July 19,  2013  Dear Fellow Members:                           Though a majority of trustees continues to favor updating our membership bylaws, after three years of effort, the Bay View Board has been unable to resolve important problems linked to our current restrictive membership requirements:                                                 

1) Bay View’s Bylaws still contain different, more restrictive membership rules than those found in our Articles of Association.   2) Our current membership policies continue to run afoul of Federal Fair Housing laws;    3) Many members continue to be barred from passing their cottages on to their children and grandchildren;   4) Prospective members willing to commit to our Christian and Chautauqua traditions,  including Christians not affiliated with a particular church, remain barred from our community.                                                                                                                   Providing long-sought resolution of these and other issues, the proposed Membership Bylaw will restore peace and harmony to our community, strenthen our heritage as a Christian Chautauqua, end unfair abridgment of your property rights, and remove the legal cloud that threatens our future.                                                                                                

For your children and grandchildren,
For the Bay View community you cherish…
VOTE “YES” ON THE BAY VIEW MEMBERSHIP BYLAW AMENDMENT 2013                                                                

Friends of the Bay View ChautauquaTM
PO Box 1316, Bay View, Michigan 49770



Currently Bay View members are entitled to tax deductions for charitable gifts to the Chautauqua program. Most of us also deduct what we pay for taxes to Bear Creek Township. We do not get deductions for the homeowner fees that we pay to the for-profit Bay View Real Estate Management Corp. Nor are we able to deduct the Chautauqua fees paid to the Bay View Association.**
The question often asked is:  “What effect, if any, will a court ruling striking down a religious test have on the tax deductions for the Bay View Chautauqua.”  
SHORT ANSWER: A deduction for gifts to the Chautauqua can be retained in various ways.          
                                                                                                                                         1.  We are currently under the group tax exemption of the United Methodist Church. If the Bay View religious test were eliminated, the UMC may well extend our group tax exemption with no change. There are numerous precedents for this.  Many persons in Bay View, including those in the Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group, favor redefining and continuing our long relationship with the United Methodist Church.    2.  Persons close to the UMC also expect that even if the church does not continue the current group tax exemption in perpetuity, they would be willing to work with us and cover us for a number of years until we quality for our own 501(c)3 non-profit tax status.  3.  Bay View’s programming of religious, education, recreation and the arts are all activities eligible for tax exemption.  Bay View could qualify for its own independent tax exempt status for the Chautauqua programs.  This is what Lakeside in Ohio did after its membership criteria were challenged as religiously discriminatory.

Donald N.Duquette                                                                                                         Clinical Professor Emeritus of Law                                                             Founding Director, Child Advocacy Law Clinic                                                          University of Michigan Law School

 **Of course individuals should always consult their tax accountant regarding their tax liability.


The membership by-law amendment proposed by the Trustees can be found under this “Challenge”  tab. Scroll down to the “Legal Updates” link.  You are invited to share your opinion regarding the proposed amendment by posting a comment.  If you are a Bay View member and have forgotten or not obtained the password needed to access this page, please send a request for password using the  Contact page on this site.  (Scroll down to “Leave a Reply”.)

Challenge: Preserving the Chautauqua Tradition
The Chautauqua ideal recognizes personal fulfillment and successful living as lifelong pursuits, a journey best taken as part of a community that combines quality life experiences with real opportunity for Intellectual and spiritual growth. In Bay View, this vision has survived war, political unrest, global economic crisis—not to mention periodic cultural backlash– for over 130 years.

Certain provisions in Bay View’s Current by laws, which impose a religious test for membership, represent a significant threat to Bay View’s Chautauqua identity. In 2011, a group was formed to work toward elimination of these provisions and the discriminatory practices they support.

Mission Statement for the Inclusiveness Group
The Bay View Inclusiveness Group is working for the time when Bay View welcomes as members all who accept its religious and Chautauqua traditions and who desire to serve and sustain them with their talents, their time, and their treasures.

Progress on Inclusive Campaign—Summary
The questions raised last summer regarding returning Bay View to its inclusive roots have largely been answered:
(1.) Bay View’s current restrictive membership practices are illegal.
(2.) Modifying our membership requirements does not jeopardize our relationship with the United Methodist Church and the tax exempt status tied to that relationship.

Lawyers engaged by the Bay View Board have stated that Bay View’s religious-based membership requirements are contrary to Federal Fair Housing and Michigan Civil Rights Laws. Failure to remove the requirement that member be involved in a Christian Church, may also endanger our Methodist Church relationship and benefits.

The entire report on the Inclusiveness campaign, including summaries of the legal opinions, is found on the “Legal Update” page, which is available to Bay View members only. Use the “Contact” page to request the password.

One thought on “Membership

  1. Having read the Bay View website information on its history and the above letter to members, I’m a little surprised. As a member of the Ocean Park Association (Ocean Park, ME), I am including a little of our history and the current membership application practice: The mission statement says, “The Purpose of the OPA is to affirm the tradition and spiritual heritage of which we are heirs, through a summer assembly program where Christian worship, principles and ideals are at the focus….” When I joined many years ago, one had to be a property owner to be a full member, although associate membership was available. Now anyone can join (although youth are identified as such [I don’t know the age cut-off]). The application states that one supports the mission, agrees to pay the dues and to attend the Annual Meeting whenever possible.

    It seems to me that requiring people to be Christian and churched misses what my preacher dad would have called an opportunity not only to be more inclusive but also to touch the lives of those who are, as yet, not squarely among the churched.

    When I told my nephew about the current dilemma that Bay View faces, his question was, “What would Jesus do?”

    Of course, Jesus was a Jew so he could never be a member of Bay View; yet without his history and presence, Bay View would never have come into existence.

    Bethany Nichols
    President, The Pines retirement community, Ocean Park, ME
    Education Committee, Ocean Park Association

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