An 84-year-old widow who leads a Bible study at her place of residence, a California Veterans Home, may face eviction after her discussion of Heaven and Hell with another resident caused him to lose sleep, prompting allegations of elder abuse.
Artis Breau and her husband moved to the Veterans' Home of California in Yountville nine years ago, according to the Pacific Justice Institute.
Breau's late husband served as a Merchant Marine, Army, in World War II and then, during the Korean War he served in the Air Force. The couple met in the 1950s while Breau worked at the Pentagon as a civilian employee in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army.
According to PJI, Breau, an evangelical Jew who believes in Jesus, has been volunteering with the chaplaincy program and led Bible studies for the past nine years at an area of the residence known as the Holderman Building, which is a shared space for residents of the home.
Recently, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) notified Breau that she would face "involuntary discharge," or expulsion, from the home if she didn't abandon her role as a volunteer Bible study leader.
"This shocking attack from the state against our client's exercise of religious convictions is deeply disturbing," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, the firm representing Breau. "The state seeks to punish Artis based on non-existent directives, and deprive her of a personal ministry to the veterans who have benefited from her religious services for years. Artis isn't fighting just for herself, but for the Gospel and for the residents who are unable to fight for themselves against the state's attempted intimidation."
The issue stemmed from a Bible study Breau led last September, where she discussed Heaven and Hell with another resident. The discussion allegedly caused the man to lose sleep and was deemed "elder abuse, emotional abuse, and otherwise illegal," according to PJI.
In December, the veterans home notified Breau that her volunteer status was being suspended indefinitely due to an ongoing investigation. Until early March, she was permitted to continue leading Bible studies for some of CalVet's most elderly and mobility-challenged residents who have difficulty attending chapel services.
But last week, a CalVet attorney threatened Breau with expulsion if she didn't stop offering the voluntary Bible studies, claiming the decision was for the "health and wellbeing" of the residents.
"The safety, security, and wellbeing of all of our residents is our top priority. We are very proud of the religious services provided to all of our residents through our chaplaincy services. This investigation concerns the private conduct of an individual. Beyond that, we are unable to comment on an ongoing investigation," Lindsey Sin, deputy secretary of Women Veterans Affairs at CalVet, said in a statement.
PJI sent a “strongly-worded response to the State” and is currently weighing all legal options.
PJI Attorney Matthew McReynolds, who has been representing Artis, called CalVet’s treatment of the elderly widow “shameful.”
“Throughout this process, we have been deeply disturbed not only by the lack of constitutional guidelines, ineptitude, and lack of due process in the investigation, but even more by the notion that discussing religious views on the eternal state of the soul is somehow elder abuse or emotional abuse,” he said. “Our client’s husband fought for his country to preserve the freedoms now being threatened by CalVet. Our veterans deserve better.”