Pastor, realtor, wants discrimination case reopened; 2nd complaint alleges ‘hateful language’

By: - May 26, 2022 6:00 pm

Photo illustration (Photo illustration via Pxfuel | Public domain).

A pastor and realtor who unsuccessfully alleged religious discrimination in Missoula County District Court wants the judge who ruled against him to put his case against the local and national realtors groups back on the docket following a second ethics complaint filed against him.

“This latest ‘ethics’ complaint, like the one filed against Pastor Brandon (Huber) in October 2021, is ludicrous on its face and motivated by anti-Christian bigotry,” reads the court document filed this week.

In a statement from lawyer James Bowditch of Boone Karlberg, the realtor groups reiterated their stance against discrimination: “Missoula Organization of REALTORS and the National Association of REALTORS has a deep commitment to non-discrimination, and we take any alleged violation of the Code of Ethics very seriously and remain steadfast in our obligations to ensure due process in the conduct of hearings to enforce the Code of Ethics.”

The complainant who alleged the ethics violation to the Missoula Organization of Realtors is accusing Huber of “hate speech,” as had an earlier complainant, for participating in a rally advertised with a flier that read, in part, “Expose the LGBTQ Agenda that Controls our Lives and Kills our Liberty.”

Pastor Brandon Huber stands with Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton, after an April 2022 court hearing. (Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

“This harassing and hateful language makes me feel both as an LGBTQ+ individual and as a realtor that I, or my clients, would not be welcome to do business with Brandon,” said the complainant, whose name is redacted in the court filing.

(The complainant also notes Huber’s lawyer said on his behalf, “if we don’t stand up to this, the LGBT woke mafia is going to come after all of us.” The court filing argues Huber was 200 miles away from his lawyer and did not know what statements would be made on a talk radio show.)

Slated for dismissal by the judge last month, the original lawsuit came after Huber said his Clinton Community Church would break ties with the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center because of its support for LGBTQ people. A community member who is not a client of Huber’s accused him of “hate speech” in an ethics complaint filed with the Missoula Organization of Realtors and based on a prohibition by the National Association of Realtors.

In court, lawyer Matthew Monforton said Huber was under attack for his religious beliefs and anticipated more of the same ethics complaints would be filed without action by the court. On behalf of the realtors, lawyer Natasha Jones argued Huber didn’t have a legitimate claim in court until he exhausted the administrative remedy and went through the ethics hearing.

At the April hearing, Judge Jason Marks found Huber’s allegations that the National Association of Realtors and Missoula Organization of Realtors discriminated against him were not “ripe.” But Marks said he was not issuing a judgment on the merits of the religious speech claim.

The day after the hearing, a realtor sent the Missoula Organization of Realtors an email requesting to file a separate ethics complaint against Huber, according to the court filing. The court document notes that because a final judgment has not yet been entered in the case, the plaintiff may submit supplemental material that’s new to the case. 

Huber again is alleging the realtors groups are violating the Montana Human Rights Act by submitting him to a costly ethics hearing “arising from protected religious activities he made outside the scope of his duties as a realtor.” Monforton said this week the original ethics complaint has not yet been heard.

After the April court hearing, the judge ruled against the plaintiff on the spot, but Monforton said he would appeal the case. The recent filing by the plaintiff noted the statement Monforton made at the time: “The problem, your Honor, is that when (Huber) gets done with that one (ethics complaint), there’s going to be another one (filed against him).”

But the statement from the realtor groups noted the judge already put the matter to bed, and Huber remains a full member of the local organization with all its privileges.

“The Missoula District Court has already ruled in this matter,” said Bowditch for the realtors. “As was previously determined in this case, the allegations brought by Mr. Huber are premature, and that fact remains true here. Realtor Huber remains a member of the Missoula Organization of REALTORS and the National Association of REALTORS and has full access to multiple listing services.”

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Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. In Montana since 1998, she loves hiking in Glacier National Park, wandering the grounds of the Archie Bray and sitting on her front porch with friends. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana. She worked there from 2006 to 2020. As a Missoulian reporter, she was named a co-fellow by the Education Writers Association to report on a series about economic mobility; grantee of the Society of Environmental Journalists for a project on conservation from the U.S. to Africa; and Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and Missoula Independent, and she earned her master’s in journalism from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband, Brock, who is also her favorite chef, and her pup, Henry, who is her favorite adventure companion. She believes she deserves to wear the T-shirt with this saying: “World’s most mediocre runner.”