This section includes two important articles about Bay View’s founding: one on the history of the community itself and another on Bay View’s membership history. Scroll down to read these fascinating stories of how this special Chautauqua developed in the then ‘wilds’ of Northern Michigan. Bay View’s 25th Anniversary Brochure in 1900 is especially important in communicating the founders’ vision:
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 founders. Bay View 25th Anniversary Brochure, 1900.
THE FACTS: BAY VIEW’S MEMBERSHIP HISTORY, Arthur Anderson
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BAY VIEW CHAUTAUQUA, R.K. (Dick) Kelbaugh
THE FACTS: Bay View’s Membership History
by Arthur Anderson, Attorney and Bay View Member
1787. The government’s recognition of the value of “religion and morality” in Michigan dates back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
• Northwest Ordinance Section 14, Art. 3. provides “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
• The Northwest Ordinance also recognizes that it is inappropriate for government to favor one religion over another. Northwest Ordinance Sect. 14, Article 1 provides “No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory.”
• These two principles are also enshrined in Michigan’s Constitution. “ Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Art. VIII, § 1. The civil and political rights,privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished or enlarged on account of his religious belief. Art. I, §4.
1875. Bay View is incorporated to purchase land on Lake Michigan to host “Second Great Awakening” style camp meetings. The only requirement for Bay View membership and cottage ownership under the original articles of association is
good moral character.
1879. The Michigan Supreme Court in People v. Young Men’s Father Matthew
=T.A.B. Society, 41 Mich 67, 1 NW 913 (1879) concludes that by-laws cannot set forth a religious qualification for membership in a corporation if the articles of association are silent on the subject.
1885. Under the leadership of John M. Hall, the first Bay View Chautauqua Assembly is held, adding all of the“4 Pillars”, namely arts, education, recreation and religion, to Bay View’s summer program.
1890. Bay View is reincorporated under the Michigan Summer Resort and Assembly Association Act 39 of 1889 which provides for the incorporation of Chautauqua style institutions. Bay View’s new articles of incorporation retain “good moral character” as the only requirement for Bay View membership and cottage ownership. The 1890 by-laws use the same good moral character standard for admission to membership without any religious requirement.
1942. The Bay View board adopts a resolution stating: ”No person shall be accepted as a member of this association or be allowed to rent or lease property or a room, for longer than a period of one day, unless such person is of the white race and a Christian who must provide acceptable and good recommendations. This resolution does not apply to servants within a household or to employes” (sic)
1945. An amendment to Bay View’s purpose clause in 1945 limits Bay View’s purpose to the promotion of the “Christian religion and morality” – previously Bay View’s purpose had much more expansively called for the promotion of “religion and morality”. The relevant provisions of Michigan’s corporate statutes prohibit corporations like Bay View from changing “the general purpose for which such corporation was formed.” Also as an entity with delegated government powers, Bay is prevented by the separation of church and state doctrines of U. S. and MI constitutional law from promoting one religion over another. As noted above, the MI Constitution recognizes that a government may encourage “religion and morality” but the MI Constitution also makes it clear that government cannot favor one religion over another.
1947. A by-law is implemented, stating: “Any person twenty-one years of age and good moral character, by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Trustees, may be accepted as a member of this Association provided that he or she is of the Caucasian race and of Christian persuasion.”
1959. The “Caucasian race” requirement is eliminated.
1968. The Federal Fair Housing Act 42 U.S. Code § 3607 is passed. It allows for housing discrimination only by a religious organization and only with respect to dwellings which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose to persons of the same religion…” (Emphasis added.)
1978. Michigan’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, Act 453, of 1976, MCL 37.2101 et seq is passed. It allows housing discrimination only by a religious organization and only with respect to housing that is used for religious or charitable purposes. (Emphasis added.)
1960s-1980s. A requirement that only 10% of themembership could be Catholic was
enforced during this period. When the quota was filled, Catholic applicants were rejected. In 1965, an applicant had already bought a cottage and was required to reverse the sale when it was discovered that the 10% limit had been exceeded. This rule appears to have been abandoned in the 1980s.
1970. The Michigan Supreme Court in Baldwin v. North Shore Estates Association
(384 Mich 42 (1970) recognized the governmental authority of a summer resort with delegated state powers similar to Bay View’s and, because of these delegated state powers, required the summer resort to provide the same constitutional protections to citizens as any other governmental body would. In Baldwin,
the Court required equal protection of the laws when it came to voting. In Bay View’s case, these delegated governmental powers and responsibilities mean that the Association should be held to the Michigan Constitutional requirement not to extend a benefit or a liability to persons because of their religious beliefs, i.e., membership may not be granted or denied based on religion. Recent cases decided in the Michigan Court of Appeals have favorably cited Baldwin concerning the governmental powers of summer resorts.
1986.The requirement of a minister’s letter is added to the membership by-law excluding “unchurched” Christians from cottage ownership in Bay View for the first time in Bay View’s then 111 years of existence.
1990s-present. A controversy over Bay View’s membership requirements begins to develop and two factions emerge — those who want to revert to the original, inclusive membership described in 1875 and 1890 and those who want to retain the exclusive language of the 1940s.
2009. Bay View’s attorneys file articles of amendment with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) on an ecclesiastical corporation form. Note: An organization incorporated in the State of Michigan is required to file amendments to its articles of association with LARA and for LARA to accept the amendments as consistent with applicable law before the amendments can become effective.
2011. Amidst the continuing membership controversy, Bay View’s attorneys render an opinion that the Christian persuasion requirement in the by-laws is likely consistent with the good moral character standard in the articles without citing or distinguishing:
• the 1879 Michigan Supreme Court Father Matthew decision which concluded that by-
laws cannot set forth a religious qualification for membership in a corporation if the
articles of association are silent on the subject,
• the 1970 Michigan Supreme Court Baldwin decision that recognized the
governmental authority of a summer resort with delegated state powers similar to
Bay View’s and required the summer resort to provide the same constitutional
protections to citizens as any other governmental body would.
2012. In May, 2012, three “opinions” are posted on the Bay View website prepared respectively by the Becket Fund, “a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths”; Plunkett Cooney, Bay View’s attorneys, and an attorney who works with the United Methodist Church in Ohio.
• The Becket document concludes that Bay View’s Christian-only cottage ownership
policy “would likely survive a challenge under the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).”
The Becket Fund document is not a formal legal opinion. It does not address any aspect of applicable Michigan law, including Bay View ’s delegated government powers or the
1970 Baldwin or 1879 Father Matthew MI supreme court opinions.
• The Plunket Cooney document is a summary of an opinion that the Board of Trustees
has never shared with the membership. The summary was recently removed from the
Members section of the Bay View web site. The summary does not address Bay View’s
delegated government powers or the 1970 Baldwin and 1879 Father Matthew Michigan
supreme court opinions. The Plunkett Cooney summary nevertheless concludes that Bay View’s Christian – only cottage owner requirements “expose the Association to the risk of an adverse result, and/or substantial defense costs in a proceeding under the FHA and/or Elliott -Larsen.” The opinion also notes that Bay View’s reliance on an exemption from fair housing laws“ ..is, at best, risky…”.
• The third document is a memorandum from an attorney who works with the United Methodist Church in Ohio who concludes “that there is a substantial likelihood” that
Bay View is violating the Federal Fair Housing Act.
2013. On July 11, 2013, the Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) Administrative Counsel issues a letter confirming Bay View’s UMC Tax Exemption. The letter made no reference to requiring Bay View to adopt article amendments that would clarify that Bay View is controlled by the UMC.
2013. A by-law amendment linking membership to a commitment to Christian values and the Chautauqua traditions of Bay View, but not requiring membership in a Christian denomination, is proposed. A petition signed by 15 clergy cottagers supports the amendment. The proposal receives 52% of the membership vote. However, a Bay View by-law requires a 2/3 vote of the membership to change a by-law, and the amendment is deemed defeated.
2013. Bay View’s attorneys file articles of amendment with LARA on an ecclesiastical corporation form. Materials received from LARA as part of a FOIA request indicate that this time LARA rejected the filing. The FOIA materials clearly indicate that Bay View is not an ecclesiastical corporation: “As I discussed briefly with Linda today, an incorrect form was submitted. The entity was incorporated pursuant to Act 39 of 1889, not Act 327 of 1931, therefore form CSCL/CD-516 cannot be used”.
2014. Plunket Cooney issues another opinion on the membership issue but fails to address the relevance of Bay View’s delegated government powers or the 1879
Father Matthew or 1970 Baldwin Michigan supreme court opinions. Regarding Bay View’s delegated government powers, the opinion recites that Board of Trustees has not asked the firm to formally address the ramifications of the existence of such powers. Their opinion suggests that they are not aware of the Father Matthew and Baldwin supreme court opinions. The relevant language from the opinion: “The impact of those powers alone does not appear to have been addressed in a published decision of our appellate courts — including in the context of Article I, Section 4, of the Michigan Constitution. We have not been asked to examine this question in such detail but are able to do so should the Board of Trustees desire.”
2014. Several Bay View members file complaints with the Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights (MDCR) alleging that the membership by-law violates the prohibitions on religious discrimination in housing in the Michigan Elliott – Larsen Act and the U.S. Fair Housing Act.
In their response to the complaint, Bay View’s attorneys indicate to MDCR that:
• Despite LARA’s 2013 clarification to the contrary, Bay View is an ecclesiastical corporation, and
• Bay View cottages are not used for religious purposes.
In an initial ruling, the MDCR finds that Bay View is exempt from both acts because there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Bay View is anything other than a
religious organization. The MDCR decision does not address the fact that
to be exempt under Elliot -Larsen, Bay View’s cottages must be used for “charitable or religious purposes” and to be exempt from the Fair Housing Act, they must be
owned by Bay View.
2015. In February, a Michigan court of appeals tax opinion concludes that Bay View cottages are not used for “charitable purposes .” Effective November 1, 2015, Bay View forms a new for-profit subsidiary to manage cottage-related activities. A request for reconsideration of the 2014 decision is filed with the MDCR, and these new facts are provided to the MDCR as they occur.
2015. In July, the Board of Trustees proposes an amendment to the Articles of Association to clarify that Bay View is controlled by the United Methodist Church and to give the President of the Board of Trustees the power to unilaterally change any by -law that would impact Bay View’s ability to retain its tax -exempt status through the UMC. The Board indicates that the UMC requires this amendment so that Bay View can maintain its tax-exempt status. The membership passes the amendment in August.
2016. The request for reconsideration of the 2014 MDCR decision is denied on February 9, 2016, based on the record that was completed in 2014 without taking into consideration either the 2015 Court of Appeals ruling or the formation of the for -profit subsidiary.
2016. In July the Board of Trustees propose an amendment to the membership by-laws that would drop the requirement for a pastor’s letter of support but retain the “Christian persuasion” requirement. In August, although the proposal is supported by 56.5% of the voting members, the amendment fails for lack of a 2/3 super majority.
2016. In September 2016, LARA rejects the Methodist control amendments passed by the membership in 2015 because the control amendments are inconsistent with the 1889 Summer Resort Act, reaffirming that, as an 1889 Act Summer Resort, Bay View is not a religious corporation and cannot be controlled by any church. The fact that LARA rejected these amendments has not been reported to the membership.
2016. In November 2016, several Bay View members file complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A copy of the Memorandum of Facts and Law that provides the legal basis for this filing was provided to each member of the Bay View Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees posts the Memorandum and the accompanying cover letter on the Bay View web site but then removes them in 2017.
2017. The Bay View Board receives a proposal for a bylaw amendment that would punish members for bringing law suits against Bay View including suits that a member eventually wins but that take longer than 2 years to resolve. The Bylaw committee votes 3 -1 to recommend that the Board obtain a formal legal opinion about the legality of the amendment before presenting it to the membership. The Board puts the amendment on the ballot without obtaining such an opinion. The amendment appears to violate federal civil rights anti intimidation and coercion statutes exposing Bay View to legal liability for trying to intimidate and coerce the Bay View membership. To pass the amendment also appears to require the unanimous approval of all members of Bay View (voting and nonvoting) because it changes the limited liability of Bay View members mandated by applicable MI corporate statutes.
2017. In late June, the Board of Trustees receives a draft complaint alleging that Bay View’s Christian persuasion membership requirement violates the separation of church and state doctrines under the US and MI Constitutions, the US and MI fair housing laws and MI corporate law. The cover letter to the draft complaint invites the Board to work with the complainants to establish a formal affiliation agreement with the UMC consistent with constitutional law and to indicate by July 7 whether the Board is willing to enter into settlement negotiations before the complaint is filed. The Board does not respond to the invitation and the complaint is filed on July 10.
[AUTHOR NOTE: I have been licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1978. This analysis is not a formal legal opinion but rather represents my best judgments based on the matters addressed based on my thirty-eight plus years of legal practice.]
A brief History of the Bay View Chautauqua
by R. L.(Dick) Kelbaugh
For me, the history of Bay View is best seen through the eyes and memories of those who, like my wife, grew up as children of Bay View. Bay View was loved by them and historical accounts suggest that this idyllic community on Little Traverse Bay has been cherished by its children since the beginning. Early on, it evolved into a special place where children were valued, cultural enrichment was encouraged, and spiritual engagement and recreational respite were given center stage.
Bay View was initially conceived as a camp meeting and retreat destination. During the first ten years of its existence, it was primarily used for that purpose, although even in its formative years, it was a popular summer place. Historical records show that Petoskey had two train stations, six suburban trains arriving daily from Chicago, Cincinnati and St Louis plus numerous others from Eastern Michigan. Steam boats also ran scheduled routes from Chicago. In 1882, a local paper estimated crowds in excess of 5,000 arriving for “Big Sunday”, a revival that Bay View was recognized for in the formative years. In 1901 the Grand Rapids Evening Press reported that over 10,000 people made summer homes in Bay View. Its evolution from a camp meeting and revival orientation to being a leading light of the American Chautauqua movement began in 1886 and took just ten years. Marked by social inclusiveness, intellectual inquiry and broad program offerings celebrating mind, body and spirit, the Chautauqua ideal would inform life in Bay View well into the twenty-first century. Not, however, without challenges…
It all began on 326 acres…
… on the South shore of Little Traverse Bay, which had been deeded to bands of the Odawa (Ottowa) native Americans by treaty in 1855. By 1870, in the aftermath of the great Civil War, America stood in lingering shock and pain as it faced the pressures of Reconstruction and rampant political corruption. A prolonged economic depression had engulfed the country, although it proved a time of expansion for the railroads.
In the midst of this post-war disillusionment, the patriarchs of Bay View were meeting in downstate Michigan to organize a religious retreat, which they hoped to combine with educational and recreational opportunities. They were actively looking to find and procure the land necessary to bring their plans to fruition.
Meanwhile, events in the northern part of Michigan were creating the opportunity retreat planners had hoped for. In 1873, the Grand Rapids & Indiana (GR & I) railroad began service to Petoskey and the Little Traverse Bay area, home of a band of the Odawa (Ottawa) Nation. It seemed the perfect place of refuge from the summer heat and pollution in the cities of southern Michigan and Indiana. GR&I believed that creating a northern resort would swell passenger ranks for the railroad. To no one’s surprise, they were right.
In November of 1875, the first official meeting of the Michigan Campground Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church took place in Jackson where the Articles of Association were recorded. Earlier that year, encouraged by public interest, two Petoskey businessmen raised funds and negotiated the purchase of land from the Native Peoples. Together with the railroad, leaders from the local community negotiated with Bay View’s founders to provide the land to The Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a summer retreat center. That transfer took place through a Warranty Deed, which was executed in May of 1876. It required the newly formed association to make $10,000 of improvements to the grounds within five years. The agreement further required the association to conduct camp meetings on the grounds for the next fifteen years, through 1890.
The first summer camp meeting and revival in July of 1876 lasted just six days. Even though attendance was limited and the stay short, the foundation had been laid for what we know today as the Bay View Chautauqua. By the end of that year, tracks from the GR&I station in Petoskey had been extended to the campground area. Those early tracks were made of wood and the cars, loaded with Bay View visitors would coast to the station in Bay View and offloaded before a team of horses pulled them back up the grade to Petoskey.
In September 1876, association trustees drafted a document that would encourage building on the campground lots. The Knapps built the first cottage in Bay View, later known as the Barclay Cottage, on Block 2, Lot 2. At the subsequent winter meeting of the trustees in Detroit, Seth Reed, Secretary of the Association, suggested the name “Bay View” and while this name for this place was not officially adopted until 1890, it was used in an 1877 advertising flyer. Worthy of note is that the name Bay View was most likely coined by another of the founding clergy, Rev. Elijah Pilcher. The new name was promptly adopted by the Board of Trustees and first used in an 1877 advertising flyer. Rev. Pilcher played an important role in the initial planning and founding of Bay View, including the drafting of the Articles of Association, but received a call as a Pastor of a parish in Ontario in 1876. Of the founding fathers, most have some part of Bay View named for them. Rev Pilcher is not one of them.
By the end of the 1877 season, twenty cottages had been constructed and occupied. The Campground Association was well on its way to satisfying the requirements of the Warranty Deed.
Bay View grew considerably in the 1880’s when perhaps 130 of the current cottages were built. Trains and steamers from the southern reaches of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan and neighboring states brought crowds in numbers impressive even by today’s standards. In 1882 the Petoskey Record reported the arrival of over 5,000 visitors via train and boat to the Little Traverse Area for one of the popular Big Sunday events.
Bay View’s popularity grew rapidly in those early years making it as well known in the Midwest as the New York Chautauqua was in the east. While the New York Chautauqua had been founded in 1874 by Christian religious leaders to focus on “Means and Methods” of education, Bay View was organized within a more revivalist framework. As a result, while the young Bay View Association offered numerous programs associated with each of the four Chautauqua pillars (Education, Religion, Recreation, Art), it did not officially undertake its evolution from camp meeting to Chautauqua until John M Hall arrived in 1885.
In August of 1885, Bay View held its first Chautauqua Assembly. John M. Hall, a rising young lawyer and Chautauqua leader who had been invited by the Bay View Board of Trustees to form a Chautauqua Assembly attended that meeting. After visiting Bay View and considering the invitation at length, he accepted. He served Bay View for a period of three decades, during which the summer community saw some of its most significant growth, helping to secure its standing as a leading voice in the Chautauqua movement. Camp meetings continued at Bay View through 1908, but the energy of the Assembly clearly became the guiding light of Bay View by the mid 1890’s
By 1889, Bay View and New York were considered lead partners in the Chautauqua movement by most observers. During the 1880’s, hundreds of Chautauquas were formed across the country, founded on four Chautauqua focuses of Religion, Education, Recreation and Arts. (Of the more than 200 Chautauquas founded at that time, those remaining include Chautauqua, New York; Ocean Park, Maine; Mt. Greta, Pennsylvania; Lakeside, Ohio; The Colorado Chautauqua in Boulder, Colorado and Bay View. Fourteen communities from Ontario, Canada, south to Florida and west to Colorado make up the present day Chautauqua Network.)
Bay View’s Identity as “Open to All”
By 1890, its Chautauqua identity well established, Bay View had fulfilled all the requirements of the Warranty Deed and the land transfer was completed, giving Bay View full title to the present grounds. By now, Bay View was recognized as an ecumenical place. In an 1895 issue of the Daily Resorter, it was noted, “Although this is an (sic) Methodist Camp Meeting ground, it is not designed to be denominational, but all who wish can secure a lot and remain thereon during the session, of course, subject to the rules and regulations governing the Association”
The 25th Anniversary Booklet of 1900 acknowledged Bay View’s Christian roots while reaffirming its Chautauqua commitment: “Bay View is not a church, or denominational establishment, but a Christian institution of broadest catholicity, welcoming all men and women of any or no denomination who have a desire to be part of such a community as this, and are willing to assist in perpetuating it according to principles and purposes of the founders.” In keeping with Chautauqua principles of the time, 1905 membership requirements in the Articles of Association read; “any person of good moral character and twenty-one years of age may become a member of this Association by a vote of two-thirds of the Board of Trustees.”
Chautauqua Principles Challenged…
In 1942, fueled by war, emerging cold-war politics and rising fears of domestic social change, Bay View’s Chautauqua principles came under pressure. The Board of Trustees passed a resolution that would change policy that existed since Bay View’s creation in 1875. Initially the change was made in membership policy and later, in 1947 the policy was converted to a By-Law without a recorded vote of the membership. The policy read, “.…no person shall be accepted as a member of this association or be allowed to rent or lease property or a room, for longer than a period of one day, unless such person is of the white (sic) race and of Christian persuasion who must provide acceptable and good recommendations.” Catholics could not be barred, since some Catholics were already Bay View members, and so a Catholic quota was initiated. Such restrictions were inconsistent with Bay View’s Articles of Association, so this practice by the Board seems to have ignored the Articles. In 1959 the “white race” wording was removed by a vote of the membership. The Catholic quota survived into the 1980’s, while exclusion of Jews and other non-Christians from membership remains. The present Board of Trustees, and Bay View membership, is now beginning the necessary task of bringing the By-Laws into compliance with the Articles of Association.
Now I can see Bay View’s secret
As I gain in years, I am seeing many exciting things from my family. My daughter is now serving on the Performing Arts committee. My nine year old grandson is pushing us all to begin sailing lessons, my seven year old granddaughter recently did drawings that were a part of our July 4th Hager Park invitation, and my niece is thinking of becoming a Leader in Training in 2013. For 137 years, the engagement of youth has been the seed of new growth that has kept Bay View vibrant. We are but stewards of this place. But as stewards we have a responsibility for nurturing growth as well as daily care. The life of Bay View is a life of generations. I will someday pass from the scene, but I know that future generations will find this place as exhilarating as we have. Bay View’s history is only partly written.
Information for this article was taken from The Heritage of Bay View by Keith Fennimore; Bay View – An American Idea by Mary Jane Doerr; The Chautauqua Trails website, Wikipedia and documents housed in the Bay View Public Archives, Bay View, Michigan.