Senior Living Center Backs Down After Banning Bible Studies in a Win for Our Client and Religious Liberty
The ACLJ took on a senior housing complex’s ban on Bible studies and won. Several weeks ago, we received a request for help from a resident of a senior living complex in Missouri after she was told she must shut down her weekly Bible studies in a common area of her complex. The common area is an area available to all residents to use for gatherings such as bingo, puzzling, potlucks and – until a few weeks ago – Bible study. The Bible study had become an important weekly occurrence for several residents at the senior complex some of whom are disabled.
As we previously explained:
Our client went through the proper channels to reserve one of the common areas and was initially approved to hold the Bible study at her desired time. The residents held this Bible study once a week for several months without issue.
Management then informed our client that she would be excluded from using the common area for the Bible study because some found it offensive. She was also told that because the complex was federally funded, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibited her Bible study.
The management was clearly mistaken. We sent the senior living center a legal demand letter explaining that not only does the FHA allow a Bible study on federally funded property, but it expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion in regard to providing facility services (42 U.S.C. § 3604(b)). In fact, the DOJ has spoken clearly on this issue in its directive:
No one may be discriminated against in the sale, rental or enjoyment of housing because of their religious beliefs. This includes equal access to all the benefits of housing: someone could not, for example, be excluded from reserving a common room for a prayer meeting when the room may be reserved for various comparable secular uses.
Fortunately, yesterday the complex reversed course and, in response to our legal demand, issued a letter to our client stating in writing that she could begin using the common area for her Bible studies again without further delay. Our client will now be able hold her Bible study for the first time in weeks!
This scenario occurs far too often than it should. When this issue first arose, our client thought this might be "too small and insignificant" of an issue for the ACLJ to take on. It is not; we stand ready to defend religious liberty anywhere it is infringed. She’s so thankful we were able to help her. Without us, she admits she would have ceased the Bible study and several residents would have lost out on community and encouragement.
That’s why the ACLJ continues to provide legal assistance for Americans nationwide who experience violations of their constitutionally protected freedoms and religious liberties. Follow the ACLJ for updates regarding this situation and other legal battles we are fighting to protect the rights of Americans. If you are experiencing similar religious discrimination, please contact us at ACLJ.org/HELP.
This is our Life & Liberty Drive in action. Through your support, we are able to defend prayer, Bible studies, and numerous other religious activities from this kind of pervasive discrimination.