MADISON, Wis. — A University of Wisconsin-Madison student filed a complaint against the Lumen House, a Catholic-run housing facility, on the basis of discriminatory rental practices.
Nicole Niebler considered living at the Lumen House until learning of the difference in rent for religious and non-religious residents based on an available scholarship.
“Their scholarship application for rent must be approved by a Catholic priest and people who are filling out the application also have to say they are a member of a Catholic church. And that’s religious discrimination against anybody who’s not Catholic and it’s pretty clear in the law,” Niebler, the president of UW-Madison’s Athiests, Humanists and Agnostics student organization, said.
As part of the application, students must be involved in service opportunities offered at St. Paul University Catholic Center, such as leading Bible study or mission trips, if not already involved in community service.
“I think it’s quite outrageous that there’s this kind of illegal discrimination and rental going on in Madison with non-Catholic renters or non practicing Roman Catholic renters charged as much as $1,200 more a year by Lumen House,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said.
Fr. Eric Nielsen, the pastor of St. Paul’s, sees the situation differently.
“My understanding is that they give scholarships to people who do community service and are involved somehow in service work. And I know that people who have not gone to St. Paul’s and people who are not Catholic have obtained that scholarship,” Nielsen said.
Niebler intends to move forward with her complaint and encourages others to do so as well.