An Open Letter to the Friends of the Bay View Chautauqua

Dear Friends:

Here is a brief summary of membership developments over the winter and some ideas for going forward this summer. Unfortunately the efforts of some members of our Board of Trustees to bring the membership issue to a conclusion were rebuffed. Despite serious efforts by some trustees to find a resolution or a compromise, the group known as the BV Heritage Alliance, successfully stymied any movement. Larry Ternan deserves thanks for staying with the issue despite facing very serious health challenges himself, now happily resolved.

When we were last together on the BV grounds the Special Committee on Membership had come to a clear and unanimous recommendation to the trustees. The BV Heritage representatives reneged on that agreement.  The trustees set about trying to find a compromise position. Over the winter many of you signed a petition to the trustees that urged the Board to: … undertake changes to our membership requirements that preserve our Christian and Chautauqua traditions, protect the Association’s IRS tax status, uphold our relationship with the Methodist conference, and honor Federal and state fair housing laws.

In December the Heritage Alliance suggested a legacy track to membership that would preserve cottage succession. A BOT subcommittee worked to develop a “legacy-only” compromise that was adopted by the trustees on a 6-3 vote over the winter. Many of you had serious difficulties with the compromise. Some were unwilling to support it, but most of us were willing to support it in the interest of compromise, for the good of our shared community, and to just get this difficult issue behind us. The Heritage Alliance, after themselves proposing the “legacy” path in December, rejected the compromise and urged the trustees to do the same.  On May 24 the trustees voted only 5-4 in favor of a By-law amendment to implement a legacy track to membership. Since it takes 2/3, or 6 trustee votes, to get a By-law amendment on the ballot, it appears the BOT will not be proposing a By-law amendment this summer.

So it seems that our hopes for collective BOT leadership in resolving this issue are in vain. We must look to other avenues to making Bay View the open and welcoming Christian community that it was in its beginning.

We could propose another By-law. Some within our coalition would urge that we NOT propose a By-law but rather continue to focus on steady persuasion of our friends and neighbors – and electing new trustees.  This is an important decision that we should make in the next several weeks and we invite your opinion.  We hate to lose momentum by backing off.  On the other hand, patience often yields fruit.

There is clear consensus within our group, however, about addressing the misinformation generated by the Heritage Alliance.  When a membership By-law was proposed two years ago there were serious factual errors circulated alleging that Bay View could lose its connection with the United Methodist Church and its tax-exempt status. The Heritage group is now circulating a pamphlet by K.C McAlpin that asserts the same.  This is clearly not true.  Included in this message is a statement by Stan Sutton, which pretty soundly puts these concerns to rest: Bay View’s relationship to the UMC and its tax exemption, which it gets from the UMC, is in no way at risk because of our membership rules.

The trustees have a legal opinion from Bay View’s own lawyers that warn about BV continued non-compliance with state and Federal law, particularly the Federal Fair Housing Law. There is also an opinion by Phil Moots, the lawyer for West Ohio Methodist Conference. You can find these on the Bay View Association website.  BV’s own legal opinion (and that of Phil Moots’) say that Bay View is vulnerable to lawsuit for illegal practices and warns of the financial consequences of defending and settling such suits. The current membership By-laws are also inconsistent with our Articles of Association.

At the insistence of the Heritage Alliance, an opinion from the Becket Fund—an outside political advocacy group—was included on the BV website as well. Though the Becket opinion asserts that BV is not violating Fair Housing law, long-time Bay View member Arthur Anderson has written a compelling piece concluding that the opinion is worthless to the Bay View Board and membership because of the legalese and disclaimers included in the opinion. Anderson’s position paper also addresses the fiduciary responsibility of the trustees to operate Bay View in compliance with applicable law including the Federal Fair Housing Act.  Arthur is a Harvard Law graduate who has practiced corporate law for 35 years and regularly advises corporate boards as part of his law practice in Boston.) It is important to put the Becket opinion and the BOT’s failure to act to remedy the community’s situation in the context of Anderson’s sobering arguments.  Arthur’s paper is attached:Thoughts on Inclusiveness by Arthur I. Anderson

Persuasion takes time. Remember how long it took for women to get the vote and for blacks to get their civil rights. We may prevail this summer, but if not, we try again. The arc of history is on our side. As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated: “The moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” [AIA suggestion]
Thank you.
Don Duquette

Bay view membership policies remain seriously at odds with Christian values, Chautauqua tradition and civil law. Consistent with the intent and vision of our Methodist founders, efforts to remedy this situation will continue. Check this site often for ongoing updates and information.

3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Friends of the Bay View Chautauqua

  1. Don. Hello. I had Gail in my law class and my students enjoyed participating in your mock trials. I read about your good work in Bay View from Charley Pierce at esquire,com. Keep it up. What did Gail end up doing. I remember she was super helpful to a hearing impaired kid in my class. Say hello to her for me. Sincerely. Mike Alperovitz

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the good words. Our Bay View struggle is for religious freedom here — not freedom FROM religion, we are all religious. But rather free from mandated beliefs and required religious practices.

      Gail went to Michigan State; got an MSW at Michigan. She had a great job for 15 or so years. But her health (juvenile diabetes) finally required her to withdraw from the workforce. Until our health care system allows her to get a pancreatic transplant, which her doctors strongly recommend, but insurance companies deny. Her son, Andrew age 5, is here with us in Bay View for two weeks. Great kid.

      Remember your smart and eager students in our jury box, listening to my students present. It was a great chapter in life. All the best to you. Don

  2. Thank you for this letter. I am in favor of trying to elect new trustees to the Bay View Board of Trustees. That said, I read tbe most recent letter to the membership from BOT with an array of unhappy emotions.

    It seems financially irresponsible by BOT to spend Association funds on PR firms when nothing but compliance with federal law will undo negative perceptions of Bay View. It is also irresponsible of BOT to continue to break housing law, and ignore the clear moral guidance in the bishop’s statement regarding Bay View’s membership practices, both of which risk severe monetary consequences,

    Notices from BOT are insulting in their disregard for the 52% of the community who favor inclusion. As a practicing Episcopalian, with strong Methodist roots and originally confirmed in the Methodist Church, I see opening the membership to be a forward step in strengthening and revitalizing the religious foundations of Bay View.

    On these grounds alone, Bay View is in need of new leadership.

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