Catholic Church Pays out $10,000 to Settle Housing Bias Plaint

In order to resolve a housing discrimination complaint filed against them, St. Raphael's church of Bridgeport, Ct has agreed to pay $10,000 to a divorced mother of three who alleges she was denied an opportunity to rent an apartment due to her marital status.   In exchange for the monetary considerations, Natalie Al Kasas of Stratford has agreed to withdraw her complaint filed with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in November of 1998 and "waives against the church.

Stipulations in the agreement, which was signed by all parties in May of this year, indicate that the money is to be paid in four installments over a period of three months with the final payment of $2,500 to be paid on or before August 15, 1999.   It is also made clear in the agreement that the settlement does not constitute an admission by St. Raphael's that they have violated any fair housing laws.  There is a further clause in the agreement, however, that states that the church will "take all reasonable actions to make certain that their agents and/or each of their full and/or part-time employees are aware of the provisions of the CT Fair Housing Statutes and that they will take all reasonable actions to require compliance with the statutes."

Ms. Al Kasas had filed her complaint after being told by the church that she would not be allowed to rent a vacant 2-bedroom apartment located on Suburban Ave. in Bridgeport (owned by St. Raphael's) because of her divorced status.  According to her sworn affidavit, Ms. Al Kasas alleges she was told by church representative, Isabella Minopoli, that "father (Rev. Carducci D'Amico) was pretty strong about his intentions of having a married couple rent the apartment rather than someone who is divorced".  Ms. Al Kasas was assisted in the filing of her complaint by the Bridgeport Fair Housing Office who were also able to obtain the services of a private attorney to represent her (Alan Rosner, Esq. of Bridgeport).

According to Joe Wincze - Bridgeport Fair Housing Director - it was an easy case to settle because the church never denied the allegations, they just denied that it was illegal.  In their response to the complaint, the church admitted Ms. Al Kasas was denied because of her marital status but maintained they had a right to deny her "because of the religious doctrine/teaching of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the sanctity of the marriage vows and the indissolubility of those marriage vows".   They also stated that they had a right to turn Ms. Al Kasas down in favor of a married couple because the apartment was located on the grounds of St. Margaret Shrine, a religious shrine owned and operated by St. Raphael's Church.

Wincze pointed out that although the church probably sincerely believed that they were within their rights to reject Ms. Al Kasas as a tenant because of their beliefs, no such right exists under the statutes.  "The bottom line is if St. Raphael's church wants to be in the landlord business and rent out apartments, they must follow the laws like everyone else; and Connecticut law does not allow one to discriminate against someone because of their marital status!  Perhaps, they should get out of the landlord business."

Contact person: Joe Wincze   576.8323