In January of 2017, Ken Hauge and his wife moved into an apartment at the Evergreens at Smith Run, a senior living community in Fredericksburg, Virginia, managed by Community Realty Company (“CRC”) in Silver Spring, Maryland. Ken is a mechanical engineer and retired Lutheran minister who volunteers part-time pastoring at a small church located in a nearby shopping center. For some time, other Evergreens residents had discussed the possibility of starting a resident Bible study group. When the Hauges moved in, those residents asked Ken to lead the Bible study. He agreed and applied to the apartment complex manager to reserve the community room for the Bible study.
The community room hosts various resident social events, such as birthday parties, anniversary parties, baby showers, bingo, bridge, and poker games, and a monthly social dinner. These events are marked on a bimonthly calendar distributed to all residents. The calendar notes which events are Evergreens-sponsored and which are resident events and includes a disclaimer that resident events are not attributable to the Evergreens. Ken reserved the room for the weekly Bible study in early 2017 after putting up a $100 deposit. However, management refused to allow him to call the event a “Bible study,” requiring instead that he call it a “Book Review.”
In a certified letter, also dated July 23, Ken and his wife received a notice threatening eviction. That notice informed him that CRC considers his Bible study leadership to constitute “conducting a business” prohibited by his lease and, as a result, unless he ceases to lead the Bible study, whether in the community room or in his private apartment, his lease will terminate on August 31st.
Even though the law allows Ken to host a Bible study in his private residence and protects him against religious discrimination in housing, to avoid the threat of eviction, Ken agreed to temporarily stop leading the Bible study until his attorneys can resolve the matter with the Evergreens’ management.
On July 23, 2018, the Evergreens instituted a new, six-page community room policy. The policy placed onerous regulations on community room use and prohibited, among others, using the Community Room for “religious services or for other religious purposes.”
In a certified letter, also dated July 23, Ken and his wife received a notice of eviction. That notice informed him that CRC considers his Bible study leadership to constitute “conducting a business” prohibited by his lease and, as a result, unless he ceases to lead the Bible study, whether in the community room or in his private apartment, his lease will terminate on August 31st.
Attorneys with First Liberty Institute sent a demand letter detailing how CRC and the Evergreens’s actions constitute religious discrimination in housing, a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
Read the full letter here.
“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,” said Lea Patterson, associate counsel for First Liberty. “The unequal treatment of citizens in the community simply out of hostility to religion violates federal law and taints Virginia’s long history of religious freedom.”
First Liberty also represents Donna Dunbar; a Port Charlotte, Florida woman denied the use of her condo’s community room for a Bible study. Read more here.
For Immediate Release: August 16, 2018
Contact: Lacey McNiel, email@example.com
First Liberty Sends Demand Letter to Virginia Apartment and its Management Company alleging Fair Housing Violations and Religious Discrimination
Fredericksburg, VA—Attorneys with First Liberty Institute today sent a demand letter to Community Realty Company (“CRC”), parent company of the Evergreens at Smith Run, alleging religious discrimination in housing by the management of the senior living community in Fredericksburg, Virginia, after it prohibited religious activities in the Evergreens’ Community Room and threatened a resident and his wife with eviction for hosting a small Bible study in their apartment.
Read First Liberty’s demand letter here.
“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.”
Last year residents asked Ken Hauge, a new resident, to lead a Bible study in the complex’s community room. Mr. Hauge reserved the room, but the apartment manager refused to allow him to call the event a “Bible study,” requiring instead that he call it a “Book Study.” On July 23, 2018, the Evergreens adopted a new policy prohibiting residents from engaging in activity “for religious purposes” in the Community Room. In a certified letter also dated July 23, Hauge and his wife, both in their mid-80s, received an eviction notice informing that that CRC considers the Bible study to constitute “business activity” prohibited by his lease and, unless he ceases to lead Bible study, his lease will terminate on August 31st, 2018.
First Liberty also represents Donna Dunbar, a Port Charlotte woman denied the use of her condo’s community room for a small women’s Bible study.
Hauge = “HOW=guhee.”
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About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 972-941-4453.
To download this press release, please click here.
To The American Legion:
As a grateful citizen, I support your effort to honor those who have fallen in battle and to keep the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial standing as a visible reminder of valor, sacrifice, endurance, and devotion.
Veterans memorials like the one in Bladensburg, MD are symbols reminding us of the sacrifice of our service members and the cost of war. Tearing down the Bladensburg Memorial would erase the memory of the 49 fallen heroes of Prince George’s County—like they never even existed.
We cannot allow the Bladensburg Memorial to be bulldozed.
Please know that you have my support and backing in your petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.✖