The spokesman for a legal organization is pleased that a California judge didn't allow a homeowners association to escape from allegations that it unlawfully shut down Bible studies and a worship service.
Pacific Justice Institute is representing four religious groups at retirement community Solera at Kern Canyon in Bakersfield, where complaints from an atheist convinced the HOA to shut down the religious events that were held in the community's clubhouse.
PJI attorney Brad Dacus says one of the Bible studies, a men's group, had been meeting for almost 10 years without complaint.
“And everything was going great,” Dacus says. “They're reaching out to people who couldn't go to church otherwise because they were disabled or they couldn't drive.”
The decision to halt the religious activities was announced last year, just before Thanksgiving, and one of the attendees filed suit in December. That action resulted in the HOA reluctantly allowing the groups to meet.
Despite the HOA's reversal, PJI joined the lawsuit in January and announced then it was seeking "full injunctive relief" for the senior citizens involved.
Dacus tells OneNewsNow the legal case moved foward May 18 after a Kern County Superior Court judge denied four motions from the HOA, the board of directors, and a general manager seeking to stike punitive damages.
“The judge has decided that this is indeed a relevant case,” says Dacus, “and that there are real material issues here dealing with religious discrimination against these residents who want to be able to meet.”
Dacus says the hope is that the senior citizens will be able to claim a legal victory but also send a message that Christian believers cannot be treated like second-class citizens.
“Atheists have a right to believe what they believe," says Dacus, "but they should not have the ability to have a heckler's veto to silence everyone else."