RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia realtor has sued her state real estate board for accusing her of violating Virginia’s Fair Housing Act for posting a Bible verse and other Christian messages on her website, as well as in her email signature.
Hadassah Carter says that in 2017, after she sought to help a client that was a victim of discrimination, the Virginia Real Estate Board (VREB) filed a complaint against her, citing her “words or statements associated with Christianity, indicating a preference or limitation based on religion, in violation of the Virginia Fair Housing Law.”
Among the issues cited were her email signature, which read, “For faith and freedom, Jesus loves you, and with God all things are possible …” and a quotation from John 3:16 on her website. Carter’s biography and statement of beliefs also outlined that she lives by the Golden Rule and that she views her profession as a ministry.
Carter consequently obtained legal counsel, but the VREB insisted that she not post any religious material on her website or in email communication. She ended up resigning from her job at Midlothian Partners due to a conciliation agreement that would require her employer to prohibit agents from posting religious statements on any work-related material.
Midlothian “told Ms. Carter that the VREB warned them that they were going to track Ms. Carter’s license, and will file another complaint against her if she re-adds her previous religious statements to her communications and website,” the complaint states.
Carter has subsequently not practiced real estate since 2017 because of a fear of disciplinary action if she posts about her faith on her website or email.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has consequently filed suit, alleging an infringement of the Virginia Constitution, which provides protection for free speech and the free exercise of religion.
“The defendant’s conciliation agreement with Midlothian discriminates against Ms. Carter on the basis of her religious convictions and practice by not allowing Ms. Carter to use any statements of faith in her work environment, by requiring Midlothian to report realtors who resign because of their religious convictions, and by requiring Midlothian to report that Ms. Carter resigned for religious reasons,” it also contends.
The ACLJ further argues that just because Carter cites her Christianity on her website and in her email signature, it does not mean that she would discriminate against those of other faiths.
“There are no actual complaints against Hadassah for any discrimination,” noted attorney Jordan Sekulow in a post last week. “She has a diverse clientele of Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Kenyans, and Vietnamese. Not a single allegation of religious discrimination was made against her.”
“In fact, she was actually taking action to try to defend one of her clients from discrimination in an actual fair housing dispute when the government first targeted her. The agency saw Hadassah’s email signature and decided to take action against her instead. It’s shocking.”