By Brooke DeLong
Some residents of assisted-living homes are upset because of a recent decision by the property owner to remove bibles and other religious literature from their communal libraries.
Wilhoit Properties, the proprietor of apartments and assisted-living homes, reportedly sent an email to their 116 assisted living facilities telling the managers to remove Bibles and Christian literature from their libraries located in the common areas that are shared by all residents.
With no warning to residents, the bibles and Christian faith-based books were removed. The residents pay rent to use the common areas and having access to a variety of books is important to them.
Vaye Allen has a family member in a Wilhoit assisted-living facility and was upset when she first spoke with Sapulpa Times this week. “If this isn’t stopped, it will escalate…there is power in numbers. All I want is for this to be reversed and the books to be returned to the empty shelves.”
This decision was reportedly made when a resident at an assisted-living home complained about angels being used as décor in the common area. Religious books and puzzles were next to be removed to be fair to everyone. Residents are allowed to have religious items and books in their personal rooms.
According to their website, Wilhoit describes themselves as “a family-run company that prides itself on offering unique affordable-housing options for families of all sizes.” Wilhoit owns properties in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
The American Center for Law and Justice said in a memorandum emailed to Mrs. Allen, “Religious freedom is one of the most revered rights in the United States. The First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from making any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion or abridging the freedom of speech.”
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects the free exercise of religion in the private and public housing markets. The FHA, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., makes it unlawful “[t]o discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of . . . religion . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b). In sum, the FHA makes it illegal for a housing provider to discriminate on the basis of religion.
The United States Department of Justice has explained that the FHA’s prohibition of religious discrimination “covers instances of overt discrimination against members of a particular religion as well [as] less direct actions…”
Wilhoit owns three complexes in Sapulpa. Sapulpa Times reached out to the manager at Hickory Crossing, who declined to make a statement.