In the small town of Mason, Michigan, a man trying to sell his home put a sign in his front yard stating he would sell to anyone except “foreigners”. James Prater lives in Coventry Woods subdivision where the sign displayed reads “Terms No foreigners Iraq vet”. Prater is a big fan of Donald Trump and claims the president, “has given us our freedom back.” Probably most troubling is that Prater has penned his terms because of the message being delivered from the White House.
In terms of property law, one may question whether Prater is within his rights since the sign is on his private property or if he’s guilty of discrimination. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights said that Prater’s words violate state and federal laws. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits “discrimination in any activity relating to the sale or rental of dwellings, financing or insuring housing, the terms and conditions related to housing, or harassment that is based on your race, color, religion, disability, familial status, national origin or sex” including “any notice, statement or advertisement” in real estate transactions that discriminate based on national origin. Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act includes similar protections for employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations.
Prater is prepared to hire his brother, an attorney from California, to represent him should litigation arise, and said in his defense, “There’s nothing illegal about it because no one’s made me an offer.” No one has filed a complaint to challenge the sign yet, either, and the town’s mayor, Russ Whipple, said not only was he not aware of the sign but he hasn’t heard of anyone else who’s taken notice. The message seems to be no more than white noise in a nation where Immigration and Customer Enforcement (ICE) is cracking down on non-citizens and the president is putting the brakes on immigration, especially from Muslim-majority countries.
Prater also stated he could not be racist because his best friend, also a war veteran, is Hispanic. As the side proudly displays, Prater is a former Army sergeant and veteran of the Iraq war. He did two tours in Iraq in 2007 and 2008.
Simply stated, the man just doesn’t want to communicate with those of Middle Eastern descent. “In my experience dealing with anyone with a thick, Middle Eastern accent, you can’t talk to them. I know I’m generalizing,” he said. He’s also been on bad terms with his Pakistani neighbors for the paint color they chose for the sidewalk in front of their property. Prater doesn’t approve of the light gray and said that the sidewalks are property of the homeowner’s association. He’s made his views clear on Facebook.
Prater’s house is, of course, for sale by owner. He doesn’t list a price, but public records indicate the home is valued anywhere from $140,000 to $170,000. He said he’s had several calls from people but doesn’t think they’re serious, rather just calling to harass him. “I’m going to put it bluntly. If somebody wants to make an offer, I want to see if they have cash in their bank account,” he said.