Ban on “hate speech” “will stand up to judicial scrutiny”

MISSOULA – The Missoula Organization of Realtors said this week that it believes a new rule against “hate speech” from the National Association of Realtors will be upheld in court, and it also said discriminatory behavior, including including hate speech, “should not be tolerated in any profession,” reports the Daily Montanan.

The local group of estate agents, a member of the national organization, released the statement in response to a lawsuit filed by a member of MOR alleging discrimination based on the exercise of his religion. Plaintiff Brandon Huber, a realtor and pastor Clinton accused of hate speech by a community member, also alleges the new ban on hate speech by realtors is too vague in contract law to be enforced and violates the Montana Constitution.

In the statement released Monday by Director General Jim Bachand, MOR defended his reign. MOR noted that the national association has adopted a standard of practice and that as such, real estate agents are “prohibited from using harassing speech, hate speech, epithets or insults based on the race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.

MOR also said he believed the rule was legal. “As a local association of the National Association of Realtors, we take our role very seriously in upholding a rule like this to ensure that discrimination has no place among our realtors. The NAR and the Missoula Organization of Realtors are confident that this practice will stand up to judicial scrutiny.

“When handling ethics complaints, MOR carefully considers all issues and follows due process to ensure fairness for all parties involved. It will be for the MOR Hearing Panel to determine whether any of the issues raised in the complaint constitute a violation based on the evidence presented. “

Huber filed a complaint on Nov. 3 after a situation at Clinton Community Church, where he is the senior pastor, led to a grievance against him with realtors. According to the lawsuit, the church chose not to distribute free lunches in partnership with the Missoula food bank this summer because the food bank included an LGBTQ “pride” coloring sheet with the lunches.

In a social media post, Huber explained the decision to worshipers, according to the lawsuit: “It has been a great honor for us to be able to support the children and families in our community with these meals throughout the months of summer. Last week we found materials printed in the breakfasts we distributed that went against our Bible doctrine. After conversations with the food bank, we found that our beliefs and those of the Missoula food bank do not match. For this reason, Clinton Community Church has decided to end our partnership with the Missoula Food Bank effective today, July 2, 2021. ”

Subsequently, a Clinton resident filed an ethics complaint against Huber with MOR, alleging he had engaged in “hate speech,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit said the resident is not a church member or Huber’s real estate client.

In November 2020, the National Association of Realtors added a ban on “hate speech” to its code of ethics, according to the lawsuit, and it notes that the local association, MOR, made a preliminary finding that Huber violated this ban and is due to submit to an ethics hearing on December 2. The lawsuit said he could be fined $ 5,000 as a result and have his membership privileges, such as accessing the online real estate property database, suspended or terminated. The lawsuit notes that access to this database, called the Multiple Listing Service, is a necessity for the job.

But the lawsuit argues that the ban on “hate speech” is too vague to apply and violates the Montana Constitution, and also that Huber’s statement was “not” hateful “in a reasonable definition of the term. “. In the social media post, Huber noted the church’s position: “We strive to show the love of Jesus in everything we do in this community, while upholding Bible principles, Bible truths and our beliefs.

MOR last week declined to comment on the case, and his statement this week indicated that he still could not comment on the details of the case. However, the MOR also noted that no final decision has yet been made.

“MOR is unable to comment on the details of any outstanding ethical issues due to the confidentiality of these administrative procedures,” MOR said. “However, and despite statements to the contrary in the media, the preliminary proceedings, including the decisions of the MOR grievance committee, do not lead to the conclusion that a member of the MOR has behaved in violation of a standard. of the NAR Code of Ethics. On the contrary, such a conclusion can only be drawn by a hearing panel at the end of an ethics hearing if the evidence presented at that hearing in support of an alleged violation is clear, solid and convincing. .

MOR also said the local association oversees the complaints process and will maintain confidentiality: “The rules of the NAR are administered locally. When a complaint is made to a local real estate agent organization, such as the Missoula Organization of Realtors (MOR), which alleges conduct in violation of the Real Estate Code of Ethics or a standard of practice, l he local association manages this complaint, in particular by maintaining strict confidentiality. concerning all these procedures.

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