Officials: 'No foreigners' sale sign violates civil rights

This photo taken Aug. 2, 2017, shows the "No Foreigners" sign in front of James Prater's home in Mason, Mich. Prater of Mason says he has the right to sell his house to the person of his choosing. Michigan Department of Civil Rights officials say a veteran's front-yard sign advertising the sale of his home violates state and federal laws because it calls for "no foreigners." (Judy Putnam /Lansing State Journal via AP)

MASON, Mich. — A veteran's front-yard sign advertising the sale of his home violates state and federal anti-discrimination laws because it indicates the owner won't sell to foreigners, according to Michigan Department of Civil Rights officials.

The sign in front of James Prater's home in Mason says "Terms No foreigners Iraq vet" next to "For Sale by Owner," a column in the Lansing State Journal said .

Department spokeswoman Vicki Levengood said the sign violates the federal Fair Housing Act that prohibits "any notice, statement or advertisement" in real estate transactions that discriminates based on national origin. Levengood said the sign also violates Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which provides similar protections.

Prater said he's had his house for sale for about a month with no price tag, but that he has had no offers. He's had several calls, but suspects those people are insincere about buying the property and just want to harass him.

"I'm going to put it bluntly," he said. "If somebody wants to make an offer, I want to see if they have cash in their bank account."

He insisted he's done nothing wrong and that he has the right to sell his house to whomever he chooses.

Nancy Knupfer of Lansing said a photo of the sign has been circulating online and that she's worried that the discrimination will go unchallenged. She said that Prater deserves thanks as a former Army sergeant, but that it doesn't allow him the right to discriminate against immigrants.

"Let's also uphold the laws of this country, and realize we're a multicultural society and we need to be ... welcoming to people, no matter what racial background, no matter what country they are from," Knupfer said.

Prater said his idea of a foreigner may not be what someone expects, but that those pointing to the U.S. as a nation of immigrants should focus more on citizenship.

Mason Mayor Russ Whipple said that although the sign hasn't caused significant controversy in the community and no one has filed a complaint, the advertisement doesn't represent the city's views.

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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