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Abstract

No precedent from the United States Supreme Court or other jurisprudence supports an individual, court-ordered free exerciseexemption for a landlord who violates the antidiscrimination laws while engaged in the business of rental housing. The fair housing laws are designed specifically to protect tenants from discrimination based on a landlord's personal biases. Although neither courts nor legislatures can dictate the morals of the marketplace, neither should they condone discriminatory acts that are clothed in the respectable shroud of the free exercise of religion. An exemption based not upon the landlord's own conduct, but on the landlord's disapproval of the presumed conduct of others-who are then directly harmed by the exemption-is a travesty. Such an unwarranted exemption makes a mockery not only of the legitimate free exercise exemption, but also of the civil rights laws. To avoid the inevitable "holy wars in the consumer marketplace" that a proliferation of pro-landlord decisions would bring, the courts should simply deny individual, free exercise exemptions to landlords who discriminate. To the extent exemptions are warranted at all, they should be drawn narrowly and only by the legislature.

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