A widow who lives in a Minnesota apartment complex funded by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development was told that she could not pray, read her Bible or have private discussions of a religious nature in the commons area of the complex.
The incident allegedly occurred at the Osborne Apartments in Spring Lake Park, Minn. — near Minneapolis.
Ruth Sweats was was having a casual conversation with another resident about the Bible when a social worker interrupted the conversation and told her that she could not talk about religion or the Bible in the commons area.
The social worker then told the widow that the apartment complex receives funding from the federal government and therefore she did not have First Amendment rights because HUD does not allow religious discussions in public areas of the complex.
Sweats contacted Alliance Defending Freedom — a legal advocacy group that immediately sent a letter to the senior living complex urging them to reconsider their actions.
“Government funding should not be misused to ban a widow’s prayers,” said ADF legal counsel Matt Sharp. “The private decision of senior citizens to discuss their faith, read the Bible, and pray is private speech, and no law requires this privately owned independent living facility to restrict the religious expression of these members of America’s greatest generation.”
The apartment complex manager did not return calls seeking comment.
The ADF said Osborne Apartments is free to allow the residents to engage in religious discussion and prayer.”
The letter also explains that “HUD does not prohibit discussion about religion in the facilities to which it provides funding” and that federal court precedent has established that “simply because the government provides a benefit with public funds does not mean that all ‘mention of religion or prayers’ must be whitewashed from the use of the benefit.”
Alliance Defending Freedom also suggested their actions may have violated federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
“The right thing to do out of respect for the senior citizens—many of whom fought or saw their spouses fight in wars to defend our nation and the freedoms upon which it is built—is to remove the ban on religious expression in the commons area…,” the letter states. “We hope that this letter will clear up these issues and that you will do away with this terrible policy.”