"We want to keep its heritage of a family house," Hunter said, adding that she hopes the women who live there to be [sic] "a sisterhood of believers."
..."I hope this house will be able to... [m]aintain that sense of a Christian home, a Christian community," [Christopherson] said [Danny Andrews, "Family Home Finds New Life as College Student Housing," Madison Daily Leader, 2009.04.23, pp. 1–2].
Andrews fails to ask the landlords about SDCL 20-13-20, South Dakota's discriminatory housing statute (emphasis mine):
20-13-20. Unfair or discriminatory housing practices by owner or agent. It is an unfair or discriminatory practice for any owner of rights to housing or real property, or any person acting for an owner, with or without compensation, including any person licensed as a real estate broker or salesman, attorney, auctioneer, agent, or representative by power of attorney or appointment, or to any person acting under court order, deed of trust, or will:
The provisions of subdivisions (1), (2), and (4) do not apply to rooms or units in dwellings that contain living quarters for no more than two families living independently of each other, if the owner maintains and occupies one of the living quarters as the owner's residence.
- To refuse to sell, rent, lease, assign, sublease, or otherwise transfer any real property or housing accommodation or part, portion, or interest therein, to any person because of the race, color, creed, religion, sex, ancestry, disability, familial status, or national origin of the person or persons intending to reside there;
- To discriminate against any person because of that person's race, color, creed, religion, sex, ancestry, disability, familial status, or national origin, in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the sale, rental, lease, assignment, sublease, or other transfer of any real property or housing accommodation or any part, portion, or interest therein;
- To directly or indirectly advertise, or to indicate or publicize in any other manner that the purchase, rental, lease, assignment, sublease, or other transfer of any real property or housing accommodation or any part, portion or interest therein, by persons of any particular race, color, creed, religion, sex, ancestry, disability, familial status, or national origin, is unwelcome, objectionable, not acceptable, or not solicited;
- To refuse to permit, at the expense of the disabled person, reasonable modifications of existing property that may be necessary to afford full enjoyment of property. The landlord may, where it is reasonable to do so, condition permission for a modification on the renter's agreeing to restore the premises to the condition that existed prior to the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted.
This section does not apply to dormitory residences maintained by public or private schools, colleges, and universities for the educational benefit and convenience of unmarried students or to dwellings occupied by fraternities or sororities officially recognized by such institutions. Nothing in this statute may be construed to displace federal, state, or local guidelines setting reasonable standards governing maximum numbers of occupants.
Welcome to the rental business, Tom and Mary. If you're renting this house, you can't even ask renters if they go to church (or even, in case of skinny applicants with short hair, whether they are female). The statements made by Hunter and Christopherson in Mary's husband's own newspaper might trigger this statute: a front-page news story with the subhead "Parsonage to be rented to Christian women from DSU" pretty clearly indicates and publicizes that rental by persons of one particular sex and most particular religions is not solicited.
Hunter and Christopherson refer to their positive experiences in themed housing at St. Olaf College. They're right: living in such intentional communities with folks of shared interests can be a great experience for college students. I certainly find living with a Christian woman to be a rewarding experience... although that might be a better argument for mixed housing.
Some dedicated Christian women's housing would be a nice way to carry on the spiritual tradition of the old Trinity parsonage. Maybe there is an arrangement by which Hunter and Christopherson can make their plan work. Maybe they can recruit some DSU ladies to start South Dakota's first Alpha Delta Chi chapter. But as it stands, unless I'm missing something (and if I am, I know you loyal readers will fill me in), you can't just up and rent your house exclusively to Christians, or women, any more than I could rent our Lake Herman guest cabin exclusively to atheists (not that I can find any around here).