It was 1997. I was newly employed as CEO and administrator for a non-profit Christian home for the elderly. That’s when I received the first notification from the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County. They were bringing civil actions against our organization for three counts of unlawful discrimination in housing.
There was, in fact, no actual discrimination. There were no complaints from real people. The only “evidence” they could produce to make their case was a single ad in the Yellow Pages of our local phone directory. The directory ad had been in print for several years before I was employed and had run without objection.
But there were three politically incorrect phrases that were deemed illegal by some volunteer, left-wing lackey, who had never visited our home or known anyone else who had, whose only function was to search through newspapers, brochures and telephone ads in search of implied discriminatory language or images. Local Fair Housing Councils are self-appointed discrimination “watchdogs” who extort considerable revenues from businesses by imposing fines under threats of lawsuits. Most businesses cave under the threats and just pay their demands.
In our case, they were not only demanding monetary penalties, but corrections and retractions, and an audit of all our advertising copy. I knew that, had I responded, my short fuse, yoked together with my sharp tongue and my propensity for sarcasm, would irritate them and would not go well for us. So I did the next best thing. I did what every self-respecting, freedom-loving, conservative would have done – I tore up the certified notice and filed it #13.
A few weeks later I received several, more forceful certified letters. The Fair Housing Council of Riverside County was suing me, our Board of Directors, and our non-profit ministry. And, the State of California was “piggy-backing” on the suit. I learned, later, the federal government was also monitoring the outcome and, if the council prevailed, we would no doubt face federal prosecution.
So what were the three politically incorrect phrases that merited that kind of tyrannical bureaucratic strong-arming?
1. “Christian environment.”
2. “Active living.”
3. “Family atmosphere.”
Here are the accusations (according to the council) and our brief, summary rebuttals:
A “Christian environment,” they argued, would tend to make non-Christian people feel unwelcome. We rebutted that foolishness with the facts of our actual occupancy census and with our published mission and purpose statement. We viewed our ministry as our service to God in declaring our hope to a lost world. We welcomed non-Christians with the same attitude of the Savior who, with arms outstretched, invited "Whosoever will, may come."
“Active living,” they said, is a euphemism for nonhandicapped. It implied that we would not accept people who were not ambulatory or who might require wheelchairs or other mobility devices. Here again, our actual census proved otherwise. The fact that we were a licensed assisted living facility that, by state law, was required to employ a full-time “activities director,” post a full, monthly calendar of state-approved varied “activities,” and, ensure that every resident was monitored and encouraged to remain “active,” didn’t much matter to the self-appointed PC cops on the council.
The phrase, “family atmosphere,” they explained, might discourage widows from applying for residency. And, once again, I argued, and the evidence proved, that 99% of our residents (average ages-85-95) were, (wait for it) WIDOWS. Why? Because at that age, most people are widowed and any similar organization that would not accept widows, would soon be out of business. I mean, seriously, how long could an ice cream truck driver stay in business if he refused to sell ice cream to children?
The situation seemed bleak. We were facing corporate and individual board member penalties that we couldn’t afford, loss of our State License, eviction of over one hundred residents, revocation of my administrator’s license, and the possibility of criminal charges all over some nonexistent political correctness nonsense.
Out of desperation, I began writing letters. I wrote to our State and Federal representatives, conservative talk radio personalities, and I wrote to several legal organizations that specialized in defending First Amendment cases. Out of all the letters I wrote, I only received one response by phone. It was from a young attorney, in California, who was the west coast representative of the Rutherford Institute. His name is Brad Dacus and he wanted to take our case – pro bono – that means “FOR FREE.”
That was the answer to our prayers. We had several phone conferences over the next few weeks and I supplied multiple documents and statements at his request. Then the communication suddenly ceased. I learned that the Rutherford Institute was undergoing a change in its focus and decided to close down the West Coast operation. Brad Dacus was unemployed. We didn’t know what to do.
A few months passed when, one day, Brad called to tell me that he was starting his own law firm, on the West Coast, to defend the constitutional rights of Christians, churches, and parents of school children in First Amendment cases. And he assured me that he was still going to defend us. Ours was the Pacific Justice Institute’s first case. Today PJI has over 1500 affiliated attorneys on the west coast.
Several months later, Brad called me to present a settlement offer from the Fair Housing Council. Among a list of other things, they wanted to review and approve, quarterly, all of our advertising copy. And they insisted that I attend their political correctness, anti-discrimination, sensitivity training program.
HA! That was never going to happen. I admit that I am NOT sensitive, but I refuse sensitivity instruction. It would be far easier for Nancy Pelosi to teach six dozen liberals some common sense than to teach me sensitivity. I rejected their settlement offer. Eventually, the council gave up, dropped the case against us, and went on to harass and extort other, easier targets. Shortly after that, we changed the name of our home from Casa de Verdugo to Valley Christian Home.
So that’s how I met Brad Dacus. We became friends and our non-profit Christian ministry provided budgeted monthly support for PJI for several years.