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Separation of Church and Home

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
In a new low by those suffering from the belief that all things religious are like asbestos in the ceiling tiles of society, a senior living complex has denied an elderly widow the freedom to pray and talk about her faith in a common area. Why? Because the complex accepts U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds.

This is a wrongheaded view of “separation of church and state” on steroids. The Constitution does not create a separation of church and home.

The left has long sought to remove religions—and especially Judeo-Christian religions—from any location outside of church.

They do this by equating that which is funded by government with government. They then try to use a twisted reading of the First Amendment to claim that those things which are governmental in nature must be religion-free. In truth, the First Amendment’s protection of religious expression does not disappear just because a government check shows up in your landlord’s mailbox.

Nonetheless, the First Amendment is frequently hijacked to say “no” to prayer at high school football games, “no” to invocations to start city council meetings, and “no” to religious speech at graduation ceremonies. Christmas parties become winter parties, Christmas break becomes winter break, and Easter becomes spring holiday.

And at Osborne Apartments in Minneapolis—a private apartment complex which accepts HUD funds—religious expression becomes a no-no.

Ruth Sweats found this out the hard way when she tried to read the Bible, pray, and have a private conversation about her faith with another resident in the commons area at the complex.

The property’s social worker told her to stop, claiming there are no First Amendment protections in the commons area because Osborne Apartments accepts HUD funds and HUD, subsequently, does not allow religious discussion to occur in the commons area.

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to the complex and the company that owns it, reminding them that the First Amendment does not place limits on individuals, but on government:

The Establishment Clause is a restriction on government, not on private speakers. 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. 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 federal courts have made it clear 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.”

As the letter states, senior-living complexes like Osborne Apartments are often full of people who fought valiantly for our liberties and freedoms—and their widows, too. And it’s more than a shame that in their golden years, these individuals are denied the very freedoms for which they or their spouses fought—and in some cases died.

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