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Apartment managers do 180, now will allow Bible study - WND
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Facing a lawsuit over alleged violations of federal civil rights, an apartment management company has decided to allow a retired couple to lead a Bible study in their own apartment complex.
The conclusion of the months-long case was announced Friday by First Liberty Institute and Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.
Their clients, Ken and Liv Hauge, have settled the federal civil rights lawsuit against the Evergreens at Smith Run, a senior apartment community in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and its management company, Community Realty Company.
Financial terms of the settlement were not released.
"We commend the Evergreens and CRC for resolving the case and recognizing our clients’ religious liberty," said Lea Patterson, counsel at First Liberty. "Our clients are thrilled that they can use the community room just like all the other residents."
The Hagues, both in their 80s, have lived at Evergreens since 2017.
"Last year, they filed a federal lawsuit alleging religious discrimination in violation of federal and state fair housing laws after the Evergreens adopted a policy prohibiting religious activities in the apartment building's community room," the legal team explained. "At the behest of other senior residents, Ken had been leading a small Bible study in his personal capacity. The settlement lifts the restriction on religious activities and allows the Hauges to resume hosting the Bible study. The settlement also rescinds the notice the Hauges received that threatened to evict the Hauges."
Ken Hauge issued a statement through his lawyers.
"I am thankful to First Liberty Institute and Hunton Andrews Kurth for fighting on my behalf and look forward to meeting once again with my friends and neighbors to pray and study God’s word together," he said.
WND reported when First Liberty sought the aid of 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 Hauges were faced with eviction by the Evergreens at Smith Run for holding a Bible study that allegedly "violates his lease."
Hauge's lawyers argued the eviction violates the federal Fair Housing Act. They demanded Evergreens and Community Realty Company rescind the eviction notice and a policy prohibiting religious activities.
They also asked for "prompt steps to curtail the pattern of harassment against the Hauges and other residents of faith who attend the Bible study."
First Liberty wrote 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 said. "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.
The legal complaint alleged it was not only managers but a "small group of fellow residents" who opposed the Bible studies.
"The latter group went so far as to verbally accost Bible study participants and, on at least one occasion, physically assault them," the complaint said.
The managers, as a result, "decided to discriminate against the Hauges and others on the basis of religion."
The dispute centers on the community room, which is for residential use on a first-come, first-served basis and can be reserved.
But when Ken Hauge was asked by other residents to begin a Bible study, managers opposed him and canceled his request.
When the Bible study then was held in a private residence, the managers ordered that the meeting be called a "book review."
Ultimately, the managers gave the Hauges an eviction notice. At the same time, they banned "religious" activities in the community room.
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
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