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Retirement Home Threatens to Evict 80-Year-Old Couple for Hosting a Bible Study

Last month, The Evergreens at Smith Run senior living facility in Fredericksburg, Va., threatened to evict Kenneth and Liv Hauge for hosting a Bible study in their residence. This followed a long train of religious harassment, culminating in a new policy that forbids any religious events in a common area and a notice that if Ken Hauge (a part-time pastor) continued to host a Bible study, he and his wife would be thrown onto the street.

On Thursday, First Liberty Institute sent a demand letter threatening legal action unless the facility rescinds the anti-religious policy and the threat to evict the elderly couple. These actions are so far outside the bounds of acceptable housing practices, the facility is likely to comply.

"A management company is threatening two 80-year-old residents with eviction to stop residents from meeting together to discuss their faith," Jeremy Dys, deputy general counsel for First Liberty, told PJ Media. "Evergreens management would rather make the Hauges homeless than allow them to study the Bible in their private residence with their friends."

"No one should be evicted from their home because they led a Bible study there," Dys declared. He suggested that "violations of federal fair housing laws are very serious," and warned that "if those violations are not appropriately addressed, we may have no other choice than to apply the law to them in federal court."

According to the demand letter, the eviction threat came after "repeated religious discrimination by Evergreens management."

The Hauges moved into the Evergreens in January 2017, and Ken Hauge, a semi-retired Lutheran minister, started a nondenominational Bible study at his fellow residents' request. Before the first meeting, he asked the manager if he could reserve the community room. The manager allowed him to reserve it, but insisted that he call the event a "book review" rather than a "Bible study."

Due to a misunderstanding about the starting date, the manager cancelled Hauge's reservation, and the study took place in another resident's apartment. During that time, and with the manager's permission, Hauge posted notices about the Bible study on bulletin boards, but the manager insisted that the notices advertise a "book review" instead of a Bible study.

Also that year, the Evergreens refused to reimburse the resident social committee for an agreed-upon portion of expenses associated with a monthly dinner because a resident briefly said grace over the meal.

In early 2018, the manager finally allowed the Bible study to take place in the community room, and in February of this year, the Evergreens withdrew its demand that that the event be called a "book review." Even so, several residents complained about the Bible study and attempted to interfere with it.