By Lea Patterson, Associate Counsel at First Liberty
IN THE home state of Thomas Jefferson and the birthplace of religious liberty, no one would expect to face the possibility of homelessness for freely exercising their religion.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to one Fredericksburg couple who received a notice threatening to evict them from their home in a senior living community, the Evergreens at Smith Run.
The reason? One of them leads a Bible study with other residents.
When Ken Hauge, a retired Lutheran minister, and his wife, Liv, moved into an apartment at the Evergreens, some of their neighbors asked Ken to lead a Bible study for interested residents. He agreed and asked the apartment complex manager to reserve the community room.
The community room hosts various events, such as birthday and anniversary parties, baby showers, bingo, card games, and a monthly social. These events are marked on a bimonthly resident calendar, which includes a disclaimer explaining that resident-sponsored events are not attributable to the Evergreens.
Nevertheless, religious hostility began to manifest itself. Although initially approving the request, management refused to allow Ken to call the event a “Bible study.” Instead, the Evergreens insisted that he call it a “Book Review.”
When the Evergreens manager subsequently canceled the reservation, a Bible study attendee welcomed the group into her apartment, where she hosted it for much of 2017.
In early 2018, the Evergreens management finally permitted Ken to hold the Bible study in the community room. Eventually, it even allowed him to call the event a “Bible Study.”
Unfortunately, this tolerance proved temporary.