U.S. fair housing law: advertising real estate by Catholic church parish illegal?

From the 1960s to the 1980s, in the Buffalo area it was common to see classified ads for apartments and houses listed by Catholic church parish rather than neighborhood name.

An example from the early 1970s.

Buffalo is one of the nation’s most Catholic cities, so the bulk of the population would be familiar with the location of the parishes. However, some say this practice was intended to obscure the location of the property from blacks, who likely weren’t Catholic.

Parish adds still appear from time to time, but they’re not as common as in the past. Are such ads legal under US fair housing laws, if the parish name isn’t the common name for the neighborhood? I’ve heard that ads reading “close to churches” are of questionable legality, because it implies only Christian tenants or buyers would be welcome. If that’s the case, would parish ads also be considered illegal?

FWIW, the housing office at the University at Buffalo prohibited posting of apartment listings on campus in languages other than English, because it was seen as discriminatory. Before the policy, many apartment rental ads around campus were in Korean and Chinese; they were placed by landlords of Chinese and Korean ancestry, who apparently only wanted Chinese or Korean tenants.

I would guess that the best GQ answer to this would be to look around to see if there was ever a lawsuit brought for these situations and, if so, how it was resolved.

In the section of Detroit where I lived, the Baptist and AME black kids all knew where the Catholic churches were, simply because they were the biggest buildings around and often had schools and gyms associated with them. A quick flip through the Yellow Pages will identify the location of any church, so it is not as though they were being hidden.

St. Louis is also a very Catholic city, and I still see real estate ads that mention the parish. Now I’ve never seen an ad that doesn’t at least mention the street name (as per your examples) but I don’t see any big difference between listing a parish compared to an ad that mentions a neighborhood name (often unknown to people who don’t already live in that neighborhood) or what public elementary school serves the neighborhood. Is it any more discriminatory than an ad that mentions a house is near Lincoln Elementary School being read by people who don’t have children?

I’m not terribly knowledgeable about real estate law, but in terms of ordinary advertising, generally, US merchants can advertise in whatever language they feel will get them the customers they want, as long as their official paperwork (licenses, tax returns, etc.) is in English. The neighborhood of Annandale, Virginia has a sizeable community of businesses of various types whose exterior signage is primarily Korean, and any English, if any is provided, is smaller. Now, if I walked into a Korean restaurant there as a non-Korean speaker and asked to see their official county health certificate, that is going to be in English, but there’s nothing that I know that would force them to translate their marketing material for me, or force them to put up an English sign.

In Canada it’s quite different.