MASON, Mich. — Michigan Department of Civil Rights officials say a veteran’s front-yard sign advertising the sale of his home violates state and federal laws because it calls for “no foreigners.”
James Prater’s sign in front of his home in Mason says “Terms No foreigners Iraq vet” next to “For Sale by Owner,” a column in the Lansing State Journal said.
Department spokeswoman Vicki Levengood said the sign violates the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits “any notice, statement or advertisement” in real estate transactions that discriminates based on national origin. Levengood said the sign also violates Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which has similar protections.
Prater said he’s had his house for sale for about a month with no price tag, but has no offers. He’s had several calls, but suspects those people are insincere about buying the property and just want to harass him.
“I’m going to put it bluntly,” he said. “If somebody wants to make an offer, I want to see if they have cash in their bank account.”
He also said he hasn’t done anything wrong by putting the sign up because he has the right to sell his house to the person of his choice.
“There’s nothing illegal about it because no one’s made me an offer,” Prater said.
Nancy Knupfer of Lansing said a photo of the sign has been circulating online and that she’s worried about allowing a message of discrimination to go unchallenged. She also said that although Prater, a former Army sergeant, deserves thanks for his military service, it doesn’t allow him the right to discriminate against people born elsewhere.
“Let’s also uphold the laws of this country, and realize we’re a multicultural society and we need to be acting like that and welcoming to people no matter what racial background, no matter what country they are from,” Knupfer said.
Prater said that his idea of a foreigner may not be what someone expects, but he didn’t directly give his definition of a foreigner. He said those pointing out the U.S. is a nation of immigrants should focus more on citizenship.
Mason Mayor Russ Whipple said that although the sign hasn’t caused significant controversy in the community and no one has filed a complaint to challenge the sign, the advertisement doesn’t represent the city’s views.
Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com