My Irish-American blood recoils whenever I hear the word “Fredericksburg.” So many young Irishmen were sent to a needless early death because of the slaughter that occurred in that Virginia city 53 miles south of Washington, D.C., during the American Civil War, in December 1862.
The forces of Robert E. Lee grabbed the high ground at Fredericksburg and waited. By the time the Union forces got there, the best they could do was just recklessly send wave after wave of young soldiers (including many Irishmen) to their deaths. Lee reportedly said then, “It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise, we would grow too fond of it.”
Now there’s a new battle brewing in Fredericksburg. Of far less consequence, of course. This one doesn’t involve bullets and artillery, but Bibles and arguments.
There’s a retirement community in Fredericksburg that wants to evict a retired Lutheran minister (in his 80s) and his wife if he continues to hold Bible studies there, which many of the residents have asked him to do.
For my radio show, I interviewed attorney Lea Patterson of First Liberty Institute, which bills itself as the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty.
Patterson said that Ken Hauge and his wife moved into a retirement community in early 2017. Because he’s a retired minister, some of the residents asked if he could start a Bible study there. He agreed.
Patterson told me that they started out meeting in an apartment. Then they wanted to meet in the community room, which is used for baby showers, bingo games, knitting clubs and so on. The management was reluctant to grant that request, and it took the rest of 2017 before they were able to get permission to meet in the community room.
Management initially wanted the Bible study to be called a “book review.” They used the room for a few months, but Patterson told me, “In July , the management issued a new policy declaring that residents could not use the community room for religious purposes. Now, on the same day of that policy, the management sent Ken and his wife a notice threatening to evict them if Ken continued to lead Bible study.”
First Liberty sent a letter to the retirement home and received no response. Two months later, attorneys there sent a letter to HUD, wherein they accused the retirement home of a “pattern of religious discrimination.” This not only included trying to shut down Rev. Hauge’s Bible study, but also “penalizing and prohibiting residents from audibly saying grace at resident social dinners, and adopting a policy prohibiting residents from engaging in religious activity in Evergreens’ Community Room.”
The letter adds that “several Evergreens residents attempted to interfere with the Bible study on several occasions. At least one of these residents harassed and verbally abused Hauge and other Bible study attendees on the basis of their religious beliefs and practice. For example, this individual has confronted Hauge in the hallway and subjected him to profane rants concerning the Bible study.”
Patterson told me in the interview, “The rub seems to be that there are a few other residents who are offended by the religious content of the Bible study, and that’s where the problem seems to be coming from. I know that an apartment complex has a responsibility to balance the interests of its residents, but it has to do so in a way that conforms to the requirements of the law.”
The First Liberty letter cites chapter and verse from the law, which prohibits discrimination “against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of … religion.”
Ironically, liberals are always saying things like, “If you don’t like the porn on TV, change the channel or turn it off.” But these Christophobes were horrified at the idea of a peaceful Bible study going on down the hall. You would think that these people who are soon going to meet their Maker and give an account for their lives might want to make peace with Him beforehand. But apparently not.
Patterson told me, “No one is forcing anybody to go [to the Bible study]. It’s open to anyone who wants to come; and if someone doesn’t want to, they don’t have to. … It just seems like the strangest sort of case. … The idea of someone being threatened with losing their home [in their twilight years] because they just want to hold a Bible study with friends.”
Patterson noted that the Founding Fathers certainly never set out to create a “religion-free world,” but rather a free one. I certainly pray and hope that First Liberty wins the new battle in Fredericksburg.