Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, May 23, 2024

UW-Madison student files complaint alleging discriminatory rental practices

A complaint filed by a UW-Madison student alleges that Lumen House is operating discriminatory rental practices against renters who are not practicing Catholics. St. Raphael's Roman Catholic congregation owns Lumen House, while Forward Management manages the property.

The complainant, UW-Madison student and president of the student organization Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics Nicole Niebler, has filed an Equal Opportunities Commission against the owners and managers of the apartment Lumen House, which is a former Catholic school.

If Lumen House residents receive approval by Father Eric Nielsen of "Roman Catholic Church religious programming," they receive $100 less per month in rent, the discrimination complaint alleges. According to the complaint, Niebler is being represented by Patrick Elliott and Andrew Seidel of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

"Ms. Niebler understands that the Lumen House offers a $100 monthly discount to students who are approved by St. Paul University Catholic Center," Elliott and Seidel wrote in the complaint. "Ms. Niebler is an atheist and is unwilling to attend religious worship services of the Roman Catholic Church or to participate in Catholic Church programs. Ms. Niebler is unwilling to apply for reduced rent by submitting a request to a Catholic priest."

FFRF is a Madison-based non-profit. Its purposes "are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism," according to its bylaws.

The Lumen House page on the Forward Property management website does say there are "optional spiritual programs" organized by the St. Paul University Catholic Center, which are offered to residents.

"These programs, activities, and services are available to residents to foster community and support spiritual, emotional, and intellectual growth," the website reads.

The discrimination complaint uses the Lumen House rent application as evidence, which does mention the $100 "Rent Scholarships" for those who are "active at St. Paul's."

The complaint also alleges discrimination against non-students, arguing that Lumen House has a quota of 10 percent or less for non-students. Forward Management asks prospective renters about their student status and stops renting to non-students once the quota is reached, the complaint alleges.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said "many current and previous renters" are owed a refund.

"This sort of discrimination based on the belief or unbelief of a prospective renter is a violation of that person's civil rights," says Gaylor. "It has no place in any civilized society and forms a legitimate basis for a legal complaint."

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Daily Cardinal delivered to your inbox
Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Daily Cardinal has been covering the University and Madison community since 1892. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Cardinal