Pastor Brandon Huber of the Clinton Community Church in Montana filed a lawsuit against the Missoula Organization of Realtors earlier this month after they alleged he violated the group's hate speech policy. Huber, who has been a member of the realty group since August 2020, came under fire after he halted a church partnership with the Missoula Food Bank, which provides food to those in need, because of LGBT-themed inserts in the "Kids Eat Free' lunches.
According to Faithwire, the Clinton Community Church has supported the charitable food drive for years. However, when the Missoula Food Bank decided to include inserts with messages about "pride" and "love is love" in the kids' lunches, Huber took the church out of the program. The pastor and his church said that the printed materials were against their "biblical doctrine" and decided to hand out 680 lunches on their own.
In July, Huber wrote a letter to his congregants to explain the matter. The letter was also published on their Facebook community group. It read, "Clinton Community Church wants our community to know that we love and support each and every one of you, no matter your background or where you are in life. As a church, we strive to show the love of Jesus in all we do throughout this community, while standing up for biblical principles, biblical truths and our beliefs."
After Clinton Community Church pulled out of the charitable activity and explained the reason for the decision, someone filed an ethics complaint with the Missoula Organization of Realtors accusing Huber, who is a part-time realtor, of being biased against the LGBT community, the Missoulian reported. Hubas was allegedly in violation of a hate speech provision in the National Association of Realtors (NAR) ethics code, which the Missoula chapter abides by.
According to the new personal conduct policy implemented in 2020, the "it [is] a violation for Realtors® to use harassing or hate speech toward any of the protected classes under Article 10 of NAR's Code of Ethics," the statement said. "Those include race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity." Moreover, any "personal or professional" action taken by a realty would be subjected to the ethics code.
Matthew Monforton, who represents Huber, denounced the policy and alleged religious discrimination in the lawsuit. He told KTVH-TV that the NAR's ethics code is "intended to purge Christians from the real-estate business."
He argued, "If you are a Christian who believes the way that tens of millions of American Christians do that homosexuality is wrong, there is simply no way that you can participate as a realtor, with the kind of hate-speech prohibition that exists."
Huber is set to attend a Dec. 2 ethics hearing, in which he may have his Missoula Organization of Realtors membership cancelled and be fined up to $5,000. Like Monforton, he argues that the "potential ramifications" of the ethics code will pave the way for a possible ban from using listing services, which will prevent him from continuing his work as a realtor. The organization is currently reviewing Huber's lawsuit.