A Clinton pastor and real estate agent who clashed with a local and national real estate group over allegations that he committed hate speech against LGBTQ people violated the industry’s code of ethics, according to a recent ruling by a Missoula Organization of Realtors hearing panel.
“Although this is the defendant’s first violation of the code, these violations are considered very serious and stem from a disregard for the code of ethics,” read the decision, which was filed with a July 27 court document.
The panel said Brandon Huber’s social media post, in which he noted that an event at his church “would expose the LGBTQ agenda that controls our lives and kills our freedom,” violates an anti-discrimination provision in the code of ethics for real estate agent.
However, Huber has argued that the brokers are trampling on his freedom of religion, and on Wednesday his attorney said Huber will not pay a $5,000 fine or complete diversity training, which the panel has recommended as sanctions for the board.
“Pastor Huber will never sign up for the real estate agents’ bright, anti-Christian ‘diversity’ program,” said Bozeman attorney Matthew Monforton, who is representing Huber.
Missoula Organization of Realtors CEO Jim Bachand declined to comment on the hearing’s outcome, citing the confidentiality mandated by the code of ethics. The panel also found that Huber violated the code of ethics when he disclosed information in the ethics complaint through a court filing and an “online newsletter tool.”
The ethics hearing conclusion is the latest result in Huber’s battle with the Missoula Organization of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.
In an unsuccessful case filed in Missoula County District Court earlier this year, Huber alleged the brokerage groups violated the Montana Human Rights Act by subjecting him to an ethics hearing for his “protected religious activities.”
Huber filed the complaint after he said his Clinton Community Church would cut ties with the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center because of its support for LGBTQ people, and a third party filed the complaint against him, opposing the new policy hate speech cited (see below). Adopted by the National Association of Realtors in 2020 and followed by the local group.
In a court ruling, Judge Jason Marks said the allegations of religious discrimination were premature and Huber must first go through the professional body’s administrative process before taking his claims to court.
Although the panel concluded that Huber had violated the code of ethics with one post, it also noted that he was clear on another allegation.
The decision said the Professional Standards Committee hearing panel did not condone Huber’s actions, when he severed ties with the food bank and posted a letter to social media explaining that a coloring page by the children’s food nonprofit violated Bible teaching violate However, it said the panel had not found the action to be in violation of its code of ethics.
The recent decision by the Missoula Organization of Realtors panel notes that its judgment is not final and is subject to an appeal by Huber, and Monforton said his client likely will pursue that option. But he doesn’t expect relief.
“We can appeal that decision to their board of directors, and I think we probably will, but the solution is there,” Monforton said. “They took this action because they hate Pastor Huber’s religious beliefs and they are doing it to punish him for it.”
Monforton also said he and his client are considering their next steps in the justice system given their concerns about the hearing. Monforton said the ethics hearing took place on July 19, ended at 2:30 p.m., and all five panelists signed a ruling against Huber that same afternoon.
“Given the religious basis of Pastor Huber’s speech and the lack of real deliberation by the ethics panel, the brokers’ decision was clearly based on anti-Christian bigotry,” Monforton said.
Huber is also striving for a legal solution. Last month, Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, introduced a bill, “Brandon’s Law,” which aims to protect real estate agents from religious discrimination, protect their rights to free speech, and ensure they have access to a real estate database, even if they don’t join the broker organization or pay any fees.
Currently, if the Missoula Organization of Realtors fines Huber for ethical violations and he refuses to pay it, Monforton said he will lose access to that database and could therefore lose his livelihood.
Code of Ethics
Earlier Court documents cited the National Association of Realtors’ ban on hate speech, noting that it applies to all speech made by realtors, not just work-related speech: “Realtors may not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets or slurs based on race, color or religion gender, disability, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” The Code’s Addendum defines “hate speech” as “the intention to target an individual because of a characteristic (such as race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability). offend, insult or intimidate”.