FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) - A battle is brewing at a Virginia apartment complex over a semi-retired pastor's Bible study group
The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg reported Friday that the complex's owner has threatened to evict Kenneth Hauge if he continues hosting the Bible studies.
Residents received a letter notifying residents that the complex was banning religious activities in the community center.
Resident and Bible study attendee Billy Banks said he felt the Bible study was respectful of the space in the club house, and others.
”I think it was a thing that was going on and people were benefiting from it, and as far as I know, they never spoke against any other denominations,” he said.
The complex, Evergreens at Smith Run, says Hauge pressured tenants to join his Bible studies and made them feel so uncomfortable that they left the clubroom. The complex said Hauge also violated its policies by inviting nonresidents to the clubroom.
“The Bible study was always by invitation. You can come if you want to, or you don’t come,” said Banks.
The complex alleges Hauge violated his lease by running a small business out if the community room.
Now, 86-year-old Hauge is fighting back with the help of a national nonprofit focused on protecting religious freedom.
“Freedom of religion is a right, I don’t think anyone should take that right away,” said Banks.
“Its religious discrimination when the Evergreens would threaten and the put out Mr. Hauge on the streets for hosting a Bible study in his private residence,” said a First Liberty Institute spokesman.
The Texas-based First Liberty Institute accuses the complex of blatant discrimination. It says the tenants harassed Hauge for hosting the religious classes and that he never interfered with other residents' ability to use the clubroom.