Kansas organization seeks statewide removal of racist language from property documents

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TOPEKA — The Kansas chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization is urging the governor to issue an executive order aimed at stripping discriminatory language from residential property documents.

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1948 and the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 rendering racial restrictions unenforceable, documents created decades ago by homeowner associations or by individuals for filing with county governments in Kansas and other states include restrictions on renting, leasing or selling property to members of minority communities.

The Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations requested Gov. Laura Kelly issue an order permitting cities in Kansas to delete offensive language in property documents.

The request highlighted work in the Johnson County city of Roeland Park, which initiated a review of options for dealing with discriminatory text in plats, deeds and covenants on file with the recorder of deeds. For example, files on Roeland Park contained documents prohibiting residential lots from being in the hands of a person of color. The city discovered racially intolerant language in documents associated with six neighborhoods.

“It is unacceptable that racist, discriminatory language continues to be present in property documents,” said Moussa Elbayoumy, board chairman of Kansas chapter of CAIR.

Elbayoumy said Kelly should consider an executive order allowing for “swift removal of such content from property documents in Roeland Park and statewide.”

“Doing so would be a step toward ensuring equal housing opportunities for all citizens,” Elbayoumy said.

The governor’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on a potential executive order, but an option would be for the Kansas Legislature to adopt a bill allowing a recorder of deeds to accept new documents deleting racial restrictions without incurring thousands of dollars in surveying or legal costs.

In 2021, Wyoming adopted a state law permitting homeowners to remove racially restrictive covenants from real estate deeds. In Virginia, the state enacted a statute to grant municipalities the power to repeal racist language.

CAIR’s stated mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam and empower American Muslims.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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