The organization’s Abigail Southerland said that after residents held the weekly Bible study for several months “without issue,” their client was told in June to stop “because some residents were purportedly offended by the Bible study.” Management also claimed the study was not allowed because the center was a federally funded building and that Bible studies are prohibited under FHA guidelines. “This is literally the exact opposite of the law,” she said.
After a resident contacted the organization, it sent a letter to the facility outlining federal law, which, according to Southerland, states “not only does the FHA allow a Bible study on federally funded property, but it also expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion in regard to providing facility services.”
“The Department of Justice has made it clear that someone could not, for example, be excluded from reserving a common room for a prayer meeting when the room may be reserved for various comparable secular uses,” she said.
Southerland said that if the senior living complex does not “quickly reverse course for our client, we will file a federal lawsuit to protect her religious liberty. Unfortunately, many of the most vulnerable among us, such as our senior citizens, experience violations of the very freedoms that our law is enacted to protect.”
A number of legal battles have been waged in recent years for the rights of residents living in senior facilities to hold Bible studies and other religious activities. In January 2020, a Virginia couple who were threatened with eviction from their retirement home if they continued to hold Bible study meetings won the right to resume holding their studies. Kenneth and Liv Hauge reached a settlement with the Evergreens at Smith Run in Fredericksburg, allowing them to continue holding Bible classes and movie screenings in the community room.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice