FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - A retired pastor who was served with an eviction notice at his senior living apartment in Virginia for holding a weekly Bible study is now taking his case to federal court.
Kenneth and Liv Hauge have been paying month-to-month rent in their senior living apartment in Fredericksburg since the Evergreens at Smith Run refused to renew their lease and threatened to evict them over holding a weekly Bible study.
“It’s been unnerving, especially with the possibility of being evicted because of our free expression of our beliefs it’s been very upsetting,” Kenneth Hauge said.
FOX 5 first reported on this story back in September after the Evergreens at Smith Run in banned any and all religious activities in the community room and in apartments. The apartment complex threatened to evict Kenneth Hauge if he continued to lead a Bible study that the retired pastor started in 2017.
Management cited several complaints from other residents who claim they were harassed and pressured to join and felt uncomfortable using the community room.
“This was a mixed group. Protestants of all stripes and Roman Catholics and I don’t know who else. We didn’t make that a point. It was open to anybody that wanted to participate and was welcome to do so,” Hauge explained.
A state investigation is ongoing, but attorneys with First Liberty Institute, a non-profit dedicated to protecting religious freedom, believe the company is violating federal and contractual law.
“The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against their tenants on a basis of religion as well as a variety of other protected classes. That’s not only in renting an apartment but also in providing facilities associated with it like the community room,” Lea Patterson with the First Liberty Institute said.
The Hauges said they remain hopeful they can continue to stay in their home and pray with some of their neighbors.
“It seems to me so obvious why people should be free to express their basic convictions, their basic understanding of philosophical, theological, culturally without any limitations,” Kenneth Hauge said. “I believe we are guaranteed that right by law and I think that’s enough reason to stand our ground on it.”
Kenneth Hauge said the federal lawsuit was filed after he and his wife repeatedly tried to work something out with the apartment complex.
The company has 21 days to respond to the federal lawsuit.
FOX 5 reached out to management at Evergreens at Smith Run but we have not heard back.