Retirement should be a time of leisurely living and enjoying the sunset of one’s life. For one elderly couple, though, their long-awaited respite turned into a nightmare when their retirement community in Virginia threatened to evict them for something as innocuous as hosting a Bible study.
According to the couple, Liv and Kenneth Hauge, who call the Evergreens at Smith Run in Fredericksburg, Virginia, home, they were informed by the Community Realty Company (CRC) that they would be facing eviction if they didn’t cease holding their weekly Bible study at the retirement center’s community room.
The Hauges didn’t take the threat of eviction lightly, nor did they feel they should be forced to stop hosting their Bible study. Therefore, they decided to fight back and got First Liberty Institute, a conservative law firm, on their side. First Liberty Institute filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on the Hauge’s behalf, arguing that the “CRC and Evergreens’ actions violate the Fair Housing Act and its accompanying regulations.”
Lea Patterson, who is the associate counsel for First Liberty, says that she believes the treatment of the Hauges to be “shameful.”
“It is both shameful and illegal to threaten elderly residents with eviction simply for holding a Bible study,” she said. “Treating residents unequally simply out of hostility to religion violates federal law and taints Virginia’s long history of religious freedom.”
The Evergreens Retirement community claims the bible study the retired minister, Hauge and his wife held at the on-site community room on Wednesday evening “has caused, and continues to cause serious and substantial disturbances with other residents in the community.” Evergreens also alleges that the Bible study was preventing other residents from using the community facilities and claims they had “received a series of complaints over the past several months” about the studies.
According to the landlord, there were other issues in addition to the Bible study. The couple was also showing religious films, followed by group discussions, on Sunday evenings. The notice issued by their landlord said the following:
“This activity has resulted in complaints to the landlord similar to those related to the Bible study class.”
It seems the retirement community in which the Hauges reside have received complaints alleging that the couple was disturbing other residents with their Bible study and/or Sunday night film studies. Although surely not everyone in the community must attend the Bible study or Sunday night films, most certainly the elderly couple in question have the legal right to host such events. At least that’s likely what most people assume. Of course, perhaps the issue is that they were hosting in a community location, not their private residence. However, shouldn’t each resident have equal access to the community space? One would again assume so, but it’s hard to know for sure how the legal world will evaluate this case.
Since the Hauges were given an ultimatum regarding eviction if they didn’t stop hosting their weekly Bible study, they have currently stopped holding them and are awaiting further legal action. Their goal is to get legal backing, allowing them to continue hosting their Bible study with no fear of eviction. The complaint was sent to CRC and the Evergreens by First Liberty on the Hauges’ behalf in August, demanding they be allowed to continue their Bible study. They are currently awaiting a resolution.
The outcome of this case should interest all believers as it could set precedence in how such cases are handled when residents are part of a retirement community. Should individual freedoms no longer be honored when someone moves into such a facility/community? What will the end result be if HUD doesn’t honor the Hauge’s right to host their Bible study? Will this result in subdivision communities via their home owner’s association deciding that they don’t want to allow religious events to be held within the homes inside their subdivision gates, even though they are owned by individuals?
Believers all over the nation should be concerned and keep a watchful eye on this case.
~ 1776 Christian