Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Missouri Senior Center Bans Bible Study Because ‘Some Residents Were Offended’

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One senior living center in Missouri could soon find itself in legal trouble after blocking a group of Bible-believing residents from holding weekly faith gatherings.

According to Abigail Southerland of the American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian legal advocacy group, her client was organizing a weekly Bible study for complex residents. The facility offers public spaces for residents, and the Bible study organizer had reserved one such space for their gatherings.

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For months, the woman led Bible studies on a weekly basis “without issue.” But then, in June, the senior living facility told her she had to halt the gatherings “because some residents were purportedly offended by the Bible study,” Southerland explained.

To add insult to injury, management at the facility allegedly claimed the Bible study should not have been allowed from the start because the center receives federal funding and such gatherings violate Fair Housing Act guidelines, according to The Christian Post.

Southerland, though, said that claim is “literally the exact opposite of the law.”

After receiving the cease-and-desist demand, the Christian resident reached out to the ACLJ and had the organization send the center a letter on her behalf. In the note, the ACLJ lawyer wrote, “Not only does the FHA allow a Bible study on federally funded property, but it also expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion in regard to providing facility services.”

“The [U.S. Department of Justice] has made it clear that ‘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,’” Southerland continued, adding that, if the center doesn’t soon reverse course, the ACLJ “will file a federal lawsuit to protect [her client’s] religious liberty.”

“Unfortunately,” the attorney wrote, “many of the most vulnerable among us, such as our senior citizens, experience violations of the very freedoms that our law is enacted to protect.”

This Missouri case is not the first situation impacting residents in a living space.

In 2020, as CBN News reported, a couple from Fredericksburg, Virginia, Ken and Liv Hauge, won a legal battle against their apartment complex after they were threatened with eviction for hosting Bible studies in their private residence on the facility’s grounds.

The faith-based legal group First Liberty represented the Hauges, arguing on behalf of the couple that the eviction threat violated FHA rules and discriminated against their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Part of the legal victory for the Hauges required the apartment complex to offer the Christian couple a new leasing agreement stipulating they are allowed to host Bible studies in the shared community room or their own private apartment.

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