A Minneapolis-area senior citizens' living center has told an
occupant to put up her Bible and halt discussions of her faith --
even if people are willing to hear the message.
Ruth Sweats of Spring Lake Park's Osborne Apartments tried to
read her Bible, pray, and conduct a private conversation about her
faith with another resident -- but a social worker told her to
stop. The reason? The complex claims that because it is a Housing
and Urban Development property that receives funds from the federal
government, it cannot allow residents to engage in private
religious expression in the commons area.
Alliance Defending Freedom has written a letter [PDF] to apartment officials explaining
that the Establishment Clause found in the Constitution is a
restriction on government - not on private speakers.
shouldn't be misused to ban a widow's prayer," explains ADF
attorney Matt Sharp. "The private decision of a senior citizen to
discuss her faith or read the Bible or pray is all private speech
-- and no law requires that a privately owned independent living
facility like this one should restrict the religious expression of
these members of America's greatest generation."
According to Sharp, tenants do not surrender their
constitutional rights of free speech and religion because they live
in a facility underwritten by federal tax dollars. The ADF letter
explains that, plus the fact that the actions by the center's staff
member may violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
ADF is waiting for a response.