As one of the most trafficked news websites on earth, when the Drudge team links up a topic, it means that subject has gone global.
Drudge linked to a report from the Bradenton Herald. That local media reported late last week – included the video posted below – from their page, linked here. This MHProNews update will complement their work, while exploring comments from manufactured home industry professionals, including 2 legal perspectives. This Daily Business News account will thus plow new ground on this vexing controversy, that has put manufactured home living and alleged religious intolerance in the global spotlight.
Like it or not, the handling by the Bradenton Tropical Palms of this issue is no doubt adding to the stereotypical images that have dogged our part of the affordable housing industry, as quotes from the general public further below will attest.
Hear what Millie Francis has to say.
Meeting Millie, Hearing Her Story
The Daily Business News on MHProNews team met with Millie Francis in person Saturday evening, 1.19.2019. That was one day after the mainstream media report linked here and the video above were published.
Among the points Francis raised in roughly an hour of on-the-record comments included her contention that there are several examples of unequal treatment occurring at Bradenton Tropical Palms. The featured image, and the image-laced download attached here, illustrate her points.
Before turning to specifics about her stated concerns, consider the pull-quotes from reporter Mark Young’s prior report in the Bradenton Herald.
Young’s reporting thoughtfully raised issues useful in understanding the broader scope of what sparked this controversy Francis finds herself enmeshed in.
Young’s narrative made plain that Francis was purportedly reacting to the actions of her community’s management. Meaning, this commissioned artwork wasn’t something she did on a whim. Rather, her decision flowed from a series of prior events that the community’s management itself arguably sparked.
Each of the following bullets are quotes from Young’s previous article, linked here.
- “The painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of Mexico, is on the wood where her front window used to be. Francis wanted the window removed because the park’s security would shine their flashlights into the window at night, and she used to have a neighbor who liked to peek in to see what she was doing.
- So in April, she informed the park that she wanted to remove the window and received permission to do so.
- “I didn’t know what I wanted to do in that space,” Francis said. “I was at church during Mass just before communion. To be honest, I wasn’t concentrating much on Mass because I was preoccupied with what am I going to do with this board? I said, ‘Please dear Lord, help me decide on what I want to do.’ I don’t want to say I had a vision or anything like that, but felt enlightened and received the inspiration from our Lady of Guadalupe to paint her image. So I promised that I would.”
- Other residents have a variety of things in their front yards from dolphins to angels, but for some reason management decided Francis’ painting had to come down.
- [Janet] Nowakowski [property manager for Vanguard Property Management out of Tampa, and also a community resident] first said Francis didn’t get permission through the park’s architectural review committee, but she did get permission to remove the window.”
To oversimplify the above for clarity, Millie Francis made this ‘architectural change’ as a result of actions and/or inactions by the resident owned community’s (ROC) security company. Francis has the right to privacy in her residence. That right to peaceful enjoyment of her home was being impinged upon, as the first bullet/quote above noted.
Another point from Young’s previous narrative for the Bradenton Herald is that Francis had a near-death experience. Here is how Young described that episode, which preceded the more recent events involving her window being replaced by the painting on that OSB/plywood.
- “Millie Francis, 85, is a devout Catholic and makes no apologies for her relationship with God and the Virgin Mary. About 16 years ago, she was having her sixth stent placed into her heart and while in recovery, she slipped away. Francis was clinically dead for more than 15 minutes.
- Her family and Catholic priest at the time, surrounding her hospital bed, thought she had passed, but when she awoke, it was called a miracle that she not only returned to the living, but also didn’t suffer any brain damage from the long period without oxygen.
- “I’m blessed,’ Francis said. “At first I was asking my son why am I back here? I was with St. Jude. I didn’t want to come back. But I feel blessed to know I have more to do.””
Francis’ faith may differ from billions of others, but it is fair to say that she is a true believer. The combination of the Bradenton Tropical Palms management’s actions, and her faith, led to this current standoff that has made news world-wide.
Legal and Industry Views on the Millie Francis Saga
Based upon our previous report and that of the Herald linked here, an attorney sent the following off-the-record comments to the Daily Business News on MHProNews.
- “Mrs. Francis should not agree to arbitration unless it is “non-binding.”
- Mrs. Francis attorneys should ask to see the paperwork from any and all other residents who have added anything “artistic” to their homes.
- I noticed that the artist remarked: Brandt said she understands both sides, “But I do believe she should be able to keep it and it’s not hurting anyone. There are a lot of people in that park that have different things on their trailers and some are religious as well. With her faith, this is what she wanted.” This should of course be documented.
- The local fair housing organization/group should be notified as they may wish to get involved (i.e. religious discrimination may be a factor here).”
That italics and red were in the original, and the last quoted bullet is noteworthy. The significance of that will become more evident, as a fair housing attorney similarly weighed in on that last point, on-the-record. That attorney’s insights follow the comments from a manufactured home community operator, below.
“It’s [issues like Francis’] not unique to our industry. In fact, our industry has the advantage of common ownership of the sites and the ability to control to some degree what goes on a site (as opposed to a stick- built neighborhood without an association). If this were one of our communities, I’d go to the Rules and Regs, and hope that we’d enforced them equally. We certainly have religious statues in our communities year-round (as opposed to seasonal nativity scenes). They don’t seem to offend anyone, but I can see how someone would draw the line on this much larger version,” said Brian Gallagher, Chief Operating and Financial Officer, Santefort Real Estate Group, LLC.
“Here’s an example of what’s going on elsewhere. http://www.interest.com/home-equity/slide-show/deal-neighbors-bad-curb-appeal/
“Thanks for your [MHProNews] efforts on behalf of the industry,” Gallagher said.
Fair Housing Attorney, Nadeen Green
“If what other media has reported is accurate, then there is a strong possibility that the treatment of Millie Francis is contrary to the Fair Housing Act [FHA]. Religion has been a protected class under the FHA since its inception in 1968 (the FHA came into being one week after the assassination of Dr. King; something to think about as we celebrate his life and accomplishments today). If [Millie] Francis has been treated differently than others who have displayed religious art of any nature, or if she is being held to administrative minutia purely as a pretext to require the removal of her art, then that is wrong for a number of reasons, including legal ones,” said Nadeen Green, JD.
Green was been known for years as the “Fair Housing Lady.” As an attorney, she taught fair housing law in venues in numerous states, and has been a writer for the multifamily housing industry for years, including prior to her retirement, for MHProNews.
It is thus fair to say that Green is an expert on such Fair Housing Law related issues. Her point that the Fair Housing Act may have been violated here thus ought to be taken seriously.
Next Legal Steps?
A hearing is looming regarding this matter involving Francis’ painting in the days ahead. Francis seemed uncertain of the precise date.
MHProNews has reached out to several parties involving these matters, but given the federal holiday weekend, most of them have not yet replied. That includes the community, the management company, and the law firm they’ve retained to deal with these troubling concerns.
A message sent by MHProNews to the community’s management company is linked here as a download. Similar messages have been sent to others for comments and reactions.
A Broader Context, plus Millie Francis’ Stated Desire
The relevance of issues of faith to Francis’ journey with her community’s management is beyond question.
But before diving into the faith-related components, let’s note that as recently as today, and many times over the years, MHProNews has featured quotes and speeches of a Baptist (Protestant-Christian) pastor, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. We’ve also featured Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, and Agnostic writings and thinkers, plus voices across the left-right spectrum.
As a trade publisher, ours has been a ‘wheat and chaff’ approach to all sources – meaning, take what is good, and ignore or discount the problematic.
So, what follows about a Catholic-Christian viewpoint should be understood within that framework and context. Francis holds a widely-held perspective. It’s worthy of consideration, and is useful in discerning the drama that has unfolded in Bradenton Tropical Palms.
Francis doesn’t posture being something she is not. She spoke to MHProNews about her own “sins” and her need for Jesus Christ’s redemption. She stands by what she sincerely believes her faith and inspiration at that mass noted above is calling her to do.
Francis told the Daily Business News almost word-for-word what Young reported about being distracted during that mass. As the time for her communion at that mass approached, the notion for having an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe painted to replace that window came to her mind.
She believes what she believes, is consistent, and has that kind of clarity.
The statements by Young’s narrative were surprisingly similar to what Francis said to MHProNews. That’s noteworthy, because on several occasions when this publication does follow up work on news first covered by mainstream media, there have been gaps, errors, and oversights, as long-time MHProNews may recall. Young’s account was remarkably unswerving with what Francis told us. Compared to others in mainstream media, in several ways, Young’s work in this matter has been exemplary.
Only Young’s lack of explanation for manufactured home industry terminology could be faulted, which is addressed further below.
Not an Ethnic Thing…
Despite comments from readers of Young’s report in the Bradenton Herald, it is worth noting that Francis said she is not Hispanic. She explains that she’s been “dark-skinned” her whole life. Thus the attraction, so to speak, by Francis to Our Lady of Guadalupe is not one based in an ethnic or cultural milieu.
At the end of Young’s article linked here about Francis were dozens of comments, several from non-Catholics. At least one of them was arguably anti—Catholic. It mocked the Virgin Mary, Catholic beliefs, and so on. In response to that public comment, came a four word posted reply from another commenter, who simply wrote “No Mary……No Jesus.” While it wasn’t part of that respondent’s message, a common online search result that accompanied that phrase is “Know Mary, Know Jesus.”
When MHProNews asked her ‘If you had your wish, how would you want this controversy to play out?‘ Francis immediately stated that she wanted the story of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” to be better known. She modestly added that she may not fully understand the story enough herself.
With that background in mind, two informational videos posted below are provided as an answer to her sincerely expressed request and prayer, which provides context for the decisions that the community and their attorneys are grappling with.
Those who dare view the two videos will better understand the significance to Francis and millions of others of the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” (OLG) story. There are compelling reasons why the site of the story of OLG is perhaps the most visited religious attraction in the Americas.
With those understandings, the first video that follows is from a documentary, scientific perspective. But the second – a roughly three-minute video before the plug that follows the video’s narrative – sets the stage for understanding why OLG is revered by hundreds of millions in the Americas, and around the globe. Simply put, there is strong scientific and historic evidence for what Francis believes.
From Catholic.org, a Brief Introduction to Our Lady Of Guadalupe
Call from a Supporter of Millie Francis, and Irony
A person who supports Millie Francis’ cause called MHProNews earlier today (1.21.2019). He explained during a lengthy call the efforts he’s personally planned for her situation, and the study of the related issues he’d already made. He candidly admitted being Catholic, and said in part that he thinks the world needs a feminine voice to help bring healing to our nation. So, like Francis, he’s personally drawn to the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He said he will provide an on-the-record commentary via email in the days ahead.
So these are just some of those who have responded to Francis’ journey after her near-death experience, and the stressful circumstances in the manufactured home community for the 85-year-old widow woman related herein.
An irony to this tale is that some who drive by Millie’s home in the gated Bradenton Tropical Palms may have no clue that this image is that of the Madonna, the Mother of Jesus. By contrast, a passer-by who knows something of art and culture might surmise the style to be Hispanic. But unless the passer-by were a devout Catholic themselves, or someone who has read the related news accounts, they may have no idea as to the nature of the image of OLG and its message.
Rephrased, the drama sparked by the various media accounts has already begun the very thing that Francis’ simple faith inspired. Meaning, a better understanding of Our Lady of Guadalupe. How could this fragile heart-patient have conceived what would follow her decision to act on her impulse at mass to have this painting commissioned?
MH Industry Perspective – Why This Matters in MHVille
There are any number of reasons why manufactured home industry’s professionals – of whatever background, faith, or no faith – should find this tale to be significant.
Here are a few:
- This episode debatably harms the image of the manufactured home industry in several ways, including that of resident owned communities (ROC). Stating the obvious for clarity, mainstream media doesn’t have the same objectives that specialized MH industry trade media does. Young’s story, while useful and accurate, doesn’t have as much context as one will find here. Thus, even an accurate narrative without added flavor or insights from industry professionals or a trade media presentation of facts will leave mainstream readers with yet-another dim view of manufactured home living.
- The mainstream media has long given ROCs a more favorable public hearing, right or wrong, than investor-owned properties. As this matter currently stands, troubling reports of ROC management pressuring an 85 year old widowed heart-patient for roughly 9 months may chip away at the ROC image too.
- For those outside of our industry, who don’t pick up on the fact that Francis lives is an ROC – a resident owned community – it casts the MH community sector at large in an unjustly dark light.
- The Millie Francis story in the Bradenton Herald drew posted comments across-the-board, ranging from supportive to opposing her situation. Many related to the location of the events, meaning, in a manufactured home community, though that wasn’t the terminology the public comments used. Thus the ‘t-word‘ image (see Carville below) is exacerbated.
- Residents in her community and manufactured home industry professionals are divided about the hullabaloo. Those divisions and comments are reflected in the published public perceptions, for good or ill.
- Arguably all of this drama was avoidable, had management and their lawyers listened more on the front end, to their own failures that sparked these events.
Some of the posted comments by the general public are revealing.
The following are unedited, and are just a sampling of dozens found posted at the end of the article in the comments section, from the story linked here. Keep in mind that this is a widely read account, but only one of several by numerous media – state, regional, and national – about Francis and her commissioned OLG artwork. So the following is only a tiny sense of the public impact this escapade has stirred.
- “If it were a painting of Hilary itwould be ok,” – Tom Rohrer
- “Don’t you all realize this will damage the prestegious look of the trailer park and may result in a drop in home values. You just cannot have art in a trailer park, ruins everything.” – Mike Dillon
- “The racist mobile park managers don’t know what Our Lady of Guadalupe means to Mexicans.” – Steven Spiff
- “This would be easily solved if she claimed that the painting was of a TG woman, and represented Gaia instead of Mary.
Then the lawyers’ opposition would be spun as a hate crime and they’d have to pay to keep it preserved.” – Doctor Mark
- “There is a glaring issue in this country imo – that is a large majority of our legal and moral disputes are solved my the courts and lawyers. The people are loosing their grasp on our ability to self govern, because we won’t engage one another in a civil manner, so we leave it up to a bunch of slime-bag attorneys. At the end of the day, in court, this type of BS is based on opinion.This is an issue of religous freedom at the end of the day, and she should be allowed to display this unless there is some bylaw in the community which specifically says the Virgin Mary, or a Crucifix, Star of David, etc cannot be displayed – and I highly doubt that. Otherwise, Christmas deocrations wound not be permitted, and I’m sure there were a few of those this past Holiday.Anyone can be offended by anything these days, and I say God help us. If this lady was flying a Mexican flag, for instance, it would offend someone. So she happens to be displaying a picture of the Virgin Mary…hardly anything extreme or out of the ordinary when it comes to Latino Catholic norms. Leave her alone for God’s sake. She is 85 and doesn’t need this. She’ll be dead soon enough.” – Jay DeRush
Brian Gallagher is debatably correct in saying that this uproar isn’t one limited to manufactured home communities. But this tale represents the reality that manufactured homes – unlike conventional housing – are widely misunderstood. The collage below has been used as an educational item, and has often sparked surprise from those who first see it, because they have no idea that modern manufactured homes (MH) can look like the homes shown. But obviously many do. Such realities are lost in this tragi-comic matter at an ROC, while negative stereotypes are reinforced instead.
So for whatever reasons, a common perspective among MH industry professionals is that any issue involving mobile or manufactured homes seem to be exacerbated in the public mind. It often sparks the inaccurate – and offensive to many – view of manufactured homes as “the t-word” = ‘trailers.’
There is arguably a prejudice – based in large measure on ignorance – about manufactured homes and communities, as well as about certain aspects of specific Christian beliefs. One nettlesome-yet-famous example is the one posted below. The fact that the story of Millie Francis was coming to a head at the time of the memorial of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr federal holiday is poignant. There are many forms of prejudice, ignorance, and bigotry. This tale has several possible examples of how a lack of good information – and avoidable behaviors – foster mistaken notions of reality.
Regrettably, the posture taken by Bradenton Tropical Palms – and those associated with them – in this matter are debatably fueling stereotypes that ought to be stamped out and corrected by proper information. Francis is becoming an unintended metaphorical poster-child for several causes. Examples of a more balanced understanding of the Catholic perspective of Our Lady of Guadalupe were shown above. What drew this trade publication to her story is where it took place. So, what follows is the more accurate understanding of mobile and manufactured homes – and the diversity of their residents – summarized in the infographic, fast-facts, and quotes below.
Francis spoke briefly to MHProNews this afternoon (1.21.2019), while we were interviewing another party with information about this matter. Francis said she was having her heart checked, but would call back later once her medical exam was completed. As of the time of this post, she has not made that return phone call. A follow up call to Francis has also not had a reply. This writer’s family met her, and we hope she is well.
MHProNews plans to update this report in the days ahead, with whatever replies the Bradenton Tropical Palms, their management company, and the attorneys who represent them care to share.
Once more, the letter sent to those parties earlier today is linked here as a download. That downloadable letter brings to light points that the sparked the legal opinions published above. The photos and related quotes in that downloadable document are useful and necessary for a more complete understanding of the issues involved this ongoing controversy.
There is a melancholic poetry to the fact that this discussion with Francis occurred on the Martin Luther King Jr weekend remembrances. Let freedom and mutual respect ring. That’s “News Through the Lens of Manufactured Homes, and Factory-Built Housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, commentary, and analysis.)
(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be accessed by clicking on them. Third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony is the multiple award-winning managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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