A retired pastor who was threatened with eviction for holding a Bible study in his apartment has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Ken Hauge’s legal counsel with the First Liberty Institute submitted a letter to Joseph J. DeFelice of the Philadelphia regional office for HUD asking him to investigate and “take all appropriate action.”
The issue is Hauge’s eviction by the Evergreens at Smith Run of Fredericksburg, Virginia, for holding Bible study that allegedly “violates his lease.”
A WND message left with Evergreens did not generate a response.
Hauge’s lawyers argue the eviction violates the federal Fair Housing Act. They are demanding that Evergreens and its parent Community Realty Company rescind the eviction notice and a policy prohibiting religious activities.
They also ask for “prompt steps to curtail the pattern of harassment against the Hauges and other residents of faith who attend the Bible study.”
Now First Liberty has written to DeFelice expressing concern that the company’s actions “blatantly violate the FHA’s protection from religious discrimination related to housing” and seeking appropriate action.”
“For fear of losing their home, the Hauges complied with the Notice and Policy by ceasing to hold Bible study meetings pending resolution of this matter,” First Liberty’s letter explained. “We respectfully request that the department investigate CRC’s and Evergreens’ behavior and take all appropriate action.”
The letter cited a long list of actions by the housing community corporation, including demands that Bible studies be described as a “book review,” penalties for residents who pray before resident social dinners, and a blanket ban on “religious” activity in common areas.
Hauge’s activities, they contend, were no more than a private nondenominational Bible study in his apartment for interested residents.
“Throughout 2017, Evergreens established a long record of obstructing and stifling residents’ religious beliefs. On one occasion, [redacted] refused to reimburse the volunteer resident activity director for an agreed-upon portion of expenses for a social dinner because a resident briefly and audibly said grace over the meal,” the institute said. “Similarly, at the 2017 Thanksgiving dinner social, residents were prohibited from saying an audible prayer over the meal.”
Hauge, and those who attended Bible studies, also were “harassed and verbally abused” by other residents, including individuals who “confronted Hauge in the hallway and subjected him to profane rants.”
Such violence or threats of violence and discrimination “violate the Fair Housing Act,” First Liberty said.
The threat to the Hauges “is an unlawful act manifesting discriminatory intent and effecting discriminatory impact,” the institute said. “Primarily, the notice fabricates a lease violation by mischaracterizing Hauge’s Bible study and religious practice as a business activity prohibited in either the community room or the apartment.”
The policy, the letter said, discriminates “against religious residents and results in religious adherents receiving unequal treatment.”
“CRC and Evergreens effect profound discrimination against residents of faith.”
The Hauges, both in their 80s, moved into the residence early in 2017. Ken Hauge volunteers at a local church, and he was asked to lead the Bible study, which was allowed briefly in the community room.