Missouri Senior Center Cancels Bible Study

A Christian legal advocacy group has threatened to sue a Missouri senior care facility for prohibiting residents from holding Bible studies.

According to Abigail Southerland of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), when their client wanted to arrange a Bible study for complex residents, the facility offered to use common spaces and reserved one of the common areas for the study.

After residents held the weekly Bible study over the course of several months “without issue,” Southerland, who serves as senior litigation counsel for ACLJ, said their client was told in June to stop “because some residents were purportedly offended by the Bible study.”

Management also claimed the study was not allowed since the center was a federally funded building and that Bible studies are prohibited under FHA guidelines.

“This is literally the exact opposite of the law,” said Southerland.

After the resident contacted the ACLJ, the group sent a demand letter to the facility outlining federal law, which, according to Southerland, states “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 [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,’” she explained.

Southerland pointed to a 2008 case involving a Chicago-area condo association which was found to have violated the rights of Jewish homeowners when the association refused to allow a religious item on their exterior doorpost.

Despite an association rule against displaying items outside a condo owner’s door, the court found the association acted with discriminatory intent because other homeowners were allowed to keep items on and around their own exterior doors.

Southerland said if the senior living complex does not “quickly reverse course for our client, we will file a federal lawsuit to protect her religious liberty.”

Many vulnerable individuals, including senior citizens, face violations of their rights to religious activities. Legal battles have been waged to protect these freedoms.

In 2020, a Virginia couple won the right to resume Bible study meetings after facing eviction threats. In 2020, a Florida woman filed a federal complaint against her homeowners’ association’s ban on Bible study in her condominium complex, and a Seventh-day Adventist lay minister reached a settlement.

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