A landlord who refused to rent an apartment to an unmarried couple may not impose his personal morality on his tenants, a judge ruled.

Ron Jasniowski refused to rent the apartment because "I have a problem with the conduct of fornication."But Circuit Court Judge Aaron Jaffe said Jasniowski's action discriminated against the couple, Benson Rushing and Mary Tews, on the basis of marital status. He said the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion did not override antidiscrimination law in such a case.

"One cannot impose one's moral or religious beliefs on a tenant," Jaffe said. "A landlord has a right to exercise religious freedom but landlords' freedom of religion does not mean that tenants must practice the same."

The Chicago Commission on Human Relations ruled in May that Jasniowski discriminated against the couple, and ordered him to pay $633 in damages, a $1 fine, plus the couple's attorney fees, which totaled $14,000 as of May.

Jasniowski then appealed to the circuit court. And his lawyer, Jordan Lorence, said he would appeal Thursday's decision to a higher court.

View Comments

Jasniowski, who attends a non-denominational Christian church, has said he believes sex outside marriage is wrong.

"I love God, and I love this country too much to let this commission go trampling on our constitutional rights," he said. "I don't want to be forced to violate my Christian beliefs to provide housing for any type of immoral conduct."

But Rushing and Tews say religious beliefs are irrelevant.

"Christianity has nothing to do with it. Tolerance is what Jesus preached, not prejudice," Rushing said. "Mary and Joseph were denied housing and Jesus ended up being born in a manger."

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.