HUD Housing Tells Woman to Put Her Bible Away and Shut Up

Once again, liberal anti-Christian government workers are trying to illegally strip American citizens of all religious freedom.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidizes numerous apartment facilities across the nation.  HUD apartments provide a place to live for people who do not have enough income to afford any other form of housing.  What rent the residents are unable to pay, HUD makes up the difference.

One such HUD facility is the Osborne Apartments in Spring Lake, Minnesota.  The Osborne Apartments is a senior citizens’ living center which has a common area where all of the residents can go, sit and enjoy each other’s company.

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Ruth Sweats is a resident there and she regularly goes to the common area and sits at a table to read her Bible, pray and engage fellow residents in discussions about her faith.  That is until she was told by Rachelle Henkle, the property social worker that she had to put her Bible away and stop talking about religion because the apartments were government subsidized.

Sweats immediately contacted Alliance Defending Freedom for help in the matter.  Matt Sharp, an attorney for ADF sent a letter to Kate Edrey, the manager of the Osborne Apartment along with a copy to the HUD Minneapolis Field Office.  Part of that letter laid out the events that took place when Henkle confronted Sweats:

“The relevant facts are as follows. Osborne Apartments is a non-profit, independent living apartment complex managed by Ebenezer and subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Ms. Sweats is a resident who lives in Osborne Apartments and desires to express her religious beliefs by talking about her religious beliefs in casual conversation with other residents in the commons area, praying privately, and reading the Bible.  Recently, Ms. Sweats was engaged in a private conversation about the Bible with another resident at a corner table in the commons area when she was approached by Rachelle Henkle, the property social worker. Ms. Henkle interrupted the conversation and told Ms. Sweats that she could not talk about religion or the Bible in the commons area. Ms. Sweats explained that the discussion was a private conversation and that she should be allowed to discuss her religious beliefs. Ms. Henkle responded that Osborne Apartments is a HUD building and Ms. Sweats does not have First Amendment rights because HUD does not allow religious discussion to occur in the commons area. Because of this policy banning religious speech, Ms. Sweats is concerned that she will be punished or even evicted from the Apartments for engaging in private religious speech.” [emp. mine]

That’s right.  The social worker told Sweats that because the apartments are HUD subsidized that she does not have any First Amendment rights to the freedom of speech or religion.

Using that same logic, anyone who receives government funding or subsidies would no longer be able to exercise their First Amendment rights either.  Farmers who receive government subsidies wouldn’t be allowed to pray, read their Bibles or talk about religion on their farms.  The same would be true for everyone receiving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or any other form of welfare.  Anyone receiving a government pension, such as retired military personnel, would also have to forfeit their First Amendment rights.  Or what about every state and federal employee who receives a paycheck from the government?

You may think that these are ridiculous, but once you allow one to stand up, the others will soon follow until no one in the United States has any First Amendment rights.  But then again, that’s exactly what Obama and his cronies want, isn’t it?

Attorney Matt Sharp points out in his letter that the apartments are privately owned and therefore are not subject to the Establishment Claus that is used to squelch religious freedom.  He also pointed out that the actions of Henkle and the apartment management is violating state and federal anti-discrimination laws including The Civil Rights Act and the Public Accommodations Law.

I believe that the actions taken by Henkle in telling Sweats that she has no First Amendment rights should be a criminal violation and that she should be summarily charged and punished.  It’s bad enough to do it to anyone, but to do it to a senior citizen is unconscionable and demonstrates Henkle’s degrading attitude and treatment of seniors.

If any of you have a similar experience where someone tries to tell you that you can’t exercise your freedom of speech and religion, please contact any one of the many organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom for help in protecting your legal rights.  Don’t let bullies like Henkle steal your rights from you.

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