A senior citizens housing complex in suburban Minneapolis is under fire after a staff social worker barred a woman resident from praying or discussing her Christian faith in the the building's commons area.
Ruth Sweats, a resident of Osborne Apartments in Spring Lake Park, was reportedly sitting in the commons area of the complex discussing a Bible passage with a friend, when the building's social worker, Rachelle Henkle, stepped into the scene and demanded that she stop. Sweats told World Net Daily that she and her friend were discussing the book of Revelation, specifically the passage that speaks about those who take the “mark of the beast,” when Henkle walked up to the two and declared dramatically, “You can't talk like that here!”
When Sweats pointed out that her right to free speech was protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, Henkle countered that such rights did not apply at the housing complex since it was funded by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making it a religion-free zone.
Sweats promptly contacted Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal advocacy group, which responded with a letter to the managers of the complex explaining that Sweats was well within her First Amendment-guaranteed rights. The First Amendment's Establishment Clause “is a restriction on government, not on private speakers,” explained ADL legal counsel Matt Sharp in the letter. “Because Osborne Apartments is a private, non-profit corporation — not a government controlled entity — it is not bound by the Establishment Clause’s prohibition on the government endorsement of religion. Indeed, Osborne Apartments is free to allow the residents to engage in religious discussion and prayer.”
The website for the apartment complex states that it is a “tax-exempt, non-profit organization … managed by Ebenezer, which has provided quality services for older adults since 1917.”
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Photo: A senior man and woman studying the Bible together on a sofa via Shutterstock