A senior-living community threatened Lutheran pastor Ken Hauge and his wife, Liv, with terminating their lease if they continued conducting a Bible study in their apartment or the area commons.
In an ironic twist, The Evergreens at Smith Run is located in the same city where Thomas Jefferson drafted the precursor to the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses.
Drafted in 1777, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is the second of three accomplishments Jefferson chose for his epitaph. He wrote his precedent-setting document in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where today an 80-year-old semi-retired pastor and his wife face eviction for studying the Word of God with their friends.
Residents at The Evergreens asked Pastor Hauge to start the Bible study. Originally scheduled in the commons (which also can be reserved for gambling, parties, weddings, showers, and funerals), the study’s first session was moved to a participant’s apartment when a scheduling mistake was made by staff at The Evergreens.
For the first half of 2018, the study took place in the commons. Throughout the year, a handful of residents repeatedly harassed and attempted to disrupt the Bible study. In July, new regulations for the commons were published banning “any and all religious activities,” and the threat of eviction was issued to the Hauges.
In addition to being blatantly unconstitutional, the actions of The Evergreens directly violate the Fair Housing Act, “which prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status. These housing protections apply to discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, and also apply to the ‘terms and conditions’ of the sale or rental of housing.”
As the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division's Housing and Civil Enforcement Section outlines the statutes, “If people are permitted to put decorations on their apartment doors, religious individuals should be able to put religious items or decorations on their doors, such as a Jewish mezuzah or a cross. Similarly, when condominiums or apartments have a common room that can be reserved by residents for private activities like parties or book studies, residents seeking to hold a Bible study or other private religious activity may not be discriminated against.” (emphasis added)
Please join us at the National Center for Life and Liberty as we pray for our fellow attorneys championing the cause of the Hauges. And please continue to pray for favor in the courts as we continue our fight for Captain Fiedor, who faces similar religious discrimination and civil rights’ violations in his workplace.
The DOJ makes the case succinctly, “Finding the right home has long been part of the American dream. That dream should not be denied because of discrimination or harassment based on religion.”
And all God’s people said, “Amen!”
If you or a friend is facing religious discrimination from the government or other powerful interests, contact the NCLL today. Together, we will stand for the cause of Christ in the face of those who would silence us. “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace” (Acts 18:9).