In our February 17, 2022 blog article entitled “Hate Speech is an ethical violation even when not related to real estate activities” we discussed the NAR Professional Standards Committee’s decision to approve Policy Statement 29 to expand the applicability of the Code of Ethics to all of a REALTOR’s activities.
The article discussed an Ethics Complaint filed with the Missoula Organization of REALTORS to suspend the membership of a pastor and part-time real estate agent in Montana on the basis of “hate speech”.
The agent withdrew his church from taking part in a free lunch program after learning it celebrated gay rights and he purportedly made statements about gays being an abomination. The proceedings were put on hold after the agent filed a lawsuit against the NAR in which he claimed the Code of Ethics should be invalidated because it was too vague and trampled upon his religious beliefs.
Status of the Lawsuit
The lawsuit was eventually dismissed and the court did not rule on the merits of the action. Instead, the trial judge indicated that the allegations of religious discrimination were premature and held that the agent first needed to run through the professional organization’s administrative process before bringing his claims to court.
Action by the Board
Thereafter, the proceedings before the Organization of Realtors went forward on July 19, 2022. After a six-hour hearing, the panel found one of the agent’s blog posts violated Articles 10 and 14 of the Code of Ethics. A violation of Article 10, as supported by Standard of Practice 10-5, can occur when a REALTOR uses harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, and slurs based on the protected classes in any media or context, regardless of whether related to their activities in the real estate business or their identification as a REALTOR.
However, the panel found that while it didn’t condone the actions of the pastor/agent to withdraw from the lunch program, it did not find this conduct violated Article 10.
The panel imposed a $5,000 fine and required the agent to complete a diversity training program. The agent’s attorney indicated that they are likely to appeal the decision. Should the agent ultimately lose the appeal and refuse to pay the fine, he would be denied access to the MLS.
The application of the NAR’s expansion of the Code of Ethics to non-real estate activities is now being addressed in Montana’s legislature.
Shortly after the ruling by the Missoula Organization of Realtors, a bill was submitted to the Montana Legislative Services Division which provides, among other things, to “impose civil liability as well as professional sanctions (including real estate license suspensions by the state’s Board of Realty Regulation) for discriminating against a fellow realtor based upon the Realtor’s constitutionally protected speech or free exercise of religion.”
Stay tuned for more updates. For more information about hate speech, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (702) 798-4955.
For more than 30 years, Attorney Lee A. Drizin has practiced in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, guardianship, and real estate matters representing clients throughout the state of Nevada.
Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change.
Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. A review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.