In a previously little-noticed change to its Code of Ethics, the National Association of Relators has instituted a ban on hate speech by its 1.4 million members. The changes (full text) were adopted Nov. 13, 2020. Some of the changes became effective immediately and others became effective January 1, 2021. New Standard of Practice 10-5 provides:
REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The sweeping prohibition applies to association members 24/7, covering all communication, private and professional, written and spoken, online and off. Punishment could top out at a maximum fine of $15,000 and expulsion from the organization.
NAR’s decision, allowing any member of the public to file a complaint, has alarmed other real estate agents, and also some legal and ethics experts, who say the hate speech ban’s vagueness is an invitation to censor controversial political opinions, especially on race and gender….
Some real estate agents fear the new speech code will be used to censor agents who express disapproval of affirmative action, gay marriage, transgender pronouns, Black Lives Matter, undocumented immigrants or other politicized issues.
Among those caught up in the uncertainty are real estate agents who are Christian preachers or Sunday school teachers, or anyone who expresses traditional religious views on gender and sexuality that are out of vogue in some circles today.