Minnesota Apartment Allegedly Barred Widow From Praying in Public

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has sent a letter in protest against a Minnesota apartment complex that allegedly would not allow a tenant to openly express her religious beliefs.

In their remarks, the ADF cautioned Osborne Apartments of Spring Lake Park on Friday about their apparent ban on religious expression in the commons area of their facilities.

At issue was the claim made by tenant Ruth Sweats that she was told she could not pray or talk about her faith in the commons area. According to Sweats, this was due to the apartment complex being subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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"We write to inform you that this censorship of the religious expression of the residents is not required by the Constitution, nor by Osborne Apartments' receipt of government funding," wrote Matt Sharp, legal counsel at ADF.

"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."

In an interview with The Christian Post, Sharp of the ADF said that this complaint on behalf of Sweats was not the first time they had dealt with religious freedom issues surrounding the policies of housing complexes for seniors.

"In fact, just a few months ago, we helped a senior citizen who was told that she and other seniors could not pray over their meals at a local senior center," said Sharp.

"We have been involved in several similar situations where a housing complex or senior center was under the mistaken belief that it must censor prayer or religious expression by senior citizens at the facility simply because the facility receives government aid."

Regarding Osborne Apartments' position that receiving HUD funding meant that religious expression should be restricted in the commons area, Sharp told CP that no such legal obligation existed.

"Simply because the government provides a benefit with public funds does not mean that the recipient of the funding – whether a senior center or housing complex – must censor all religious expression," said Sharp.

"In fact, several years ago, HUD Secretary Mel Martinez affirmed that there is no HUD policy requiring facilities that receive HUD funding to discriminate against religious expression, and even warned that such discrimination might violate the religious exercise rights of the residents."

Karen O'Toole, Director of Affordable Housing at Ebenezer Management Services, which is part of Fairview Health Services, which oversees Osborne Apartments, provided The Christian Post with a statement on the matter.

"We do not restrict expressions of faith in our communities. Residents host bible studies, 1-on-1 conversations, hymn sings and other religious activities in the communities," said O'Toole.

"Staff will step in when residents are being hostile or intimidating to other residents, no matter what the topic of conversation."

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