A retired pastor faces eviction from his apartment complex after hosting a nondenominational Bible study for residents, according to a religious liberty organization.
Ken Hauge, 86, and his wife moved into a Fredericksburg, Va., senior living community known as “Evergreens at Smith Run” in January 2017. Residents asked Hauge -- a semi-retired Lutheran minister – to begin leading a nondenominational Bible study, and he agreed to do so.
According to First Liberty Institute, Hauge rented the Community Room at the apartment complex for the Bible study, but management insisted he call it a “book review” on notices and in the apartment’s calendar. First Liberty found that Management finally allowed it to be labeled a “Bible study” after being contacted by a friend of one of the attendees.
The study was held for several months until July 23, when religious activities were banned in the community room, First Liberty said. Further, on the same day, Hauge received a notice saying his lease would be terminated unless he “stopped leading the Bible study entirely, either in his private apartment or in the Community Room,” according to a letter of complaint from First Liberty to management.
First Liberty asserts, the actions by the apartment complex violate the Fair Housing Act.
“Evicting elderly residents from their home for holding a Bible Study is not only outrageous, it’s illegal,” said Lea Patterson, associate counsel for First Liberty. “It’s frightening that a management company would use the threat of eviction to stop residents from meeting together to discuss any issue, let alone their faith.”
Douglas Erdman, president of Community Realty Co. – which owns the apartment complex – told The Free Lance-Star newspaper that First Liberty did not “accurately portray the situation.”
Hauge and his wife have “at no point ... been denied the right to practice their religion in their apartment, nor have any other of the residents,” Erdman added.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Timothy Eberly
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.