Artis Breau is 84 years old, is the widow of a vet, and is about to be thrown out into the street. Her crime? Leading a Bible study.
Her husband served in the Merchant Marine and then in World War II as a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He also served in the Air Force in the Korean War. Artis herself served in the Pentagon during the Korean conflict as a civilian in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army.
Artis lives in a California Veteran’s Home in Yountville, where she has been living for nine years. But she may not be living there for long.
She has been threatened with eviction (or “involuntary discharge,” which means they are tossing her to the curb in her pajamas). She has been accused of “elder abuse, emotional abuse, and otherwise illegal” behavior. What atrocious behavior did this widow engage in to become such a menace to senior society? Has she been yelling at other residents, starting arguments with them about jello, stealing their checkers, or acting like a crazy person? No, no, no and no.
What she has been doing is leading Bible studies with interested residents. Participation in her study is purely voluntary. Nobody is forced or even pressured to attend. If residents would like to attend Artis’ weekly Bible studies, in a common area of the Home, they are perfectly welcome to do so. If they don’t want to, they are perfectly free to stay home and watch “Jeopardy.”
What else has Artis done to become someone from whom senior citizens must be protected for their own good? She’s been talking with willing residents about Christianity’s promise of life after death, which might be a topic of interest to folks with limited longevity.
Now Artis has been leading this Bible study for nine years, which might lead one to expect that if she was a threat the mental health of other residents, somebody would have noticed it by now.
A Bible study last September led to a discussion about heaven and hell. Imagine that, studying the Bible and coming across passages that deal with man’s eternal destiny! Who coulda seen that coming? It’s like going to Chuck-E-Cheese and being offended to find Ski-Ball games on the premises.
This discussion about eternity apparently caused one man to lose sleep. Well, he isn’t the first man to lose sleep thinking about his relationship with God – of the lack thereof – and he certainly won’t be the last. One could argue she did the man a favor by prompting him to spend some time thinking about life after death before it’s too late.
She was suspended from the roster of voluntary chaplains after the September study, but was allowed to continue the Bible study through March, until the “investigation” into her nefarious activities was concluded. Mind you, she essentially had been providing a chapel service for residents who are too elderly or mobility-impaired to make it to the conventional chapel services offered under the auspices of the Home.
But she was told in an alarming communication from a CalVet attorney that her Bible studies were in violation of prior directives. It’s worth noting that there are no “prior directives” at all. They are, as attorney Brad Dacus said, “non-existent.” They’re making stuff up as they go along.
The inaptly named Lindsey Sin, the deputy secretary of Women Veterans Affairs at CalVet, released a statement about the investigation. The conclusion that these junior G-men reached was that she had been endangering “the safety, security, and well-being” of the residents, which is their “top priority,” and would be expelled if she didn’t stop offering her Bible study immediately. If the home is so consumed with the wellbeing of residents, what about Artis’ safety, security, and well-being if she finds herself in the parking lot in nothing but her nightgown?
Matthew Reynolds of the Pacific Justice Institute, who is representing Artis, said,
“CalVet’s treatment of this widow is 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. Our client’s husband fought for his country to preserve the freedoms now being threatened by CalVet. Our veterans deserve better.”
Brad Dacus, the president of PJI, called the attack on Artis’ exercise of her religious convictions “shocking” and “deeply disturbing.” Artis, he went on to add, “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.”
CalVet’s actions are blatantly in violation of the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution, which restrains the federal government from “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. That’s clearly what CalVet is seeking to do to Artis. They are also stepping all over her constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association.
The bureaucrats at CalVet are also in violation of the constitution of their own state. Article 1, Sec. 4 of the California state constitution lists the following as “rights” for Californians:
SEC. 4. Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State.
Whatever else Artis may be doing here, it is beyond ludicrous to think that she is acting in a “licentious” way or endangering the “peace” or “safety” of the state of California.
President Andrew Jackson once pointed to a Bible, and said to his friend, “That book, Sir, is the rock on which the Republic rests.” Artis Breau knows that. But it looks like nobody in the government of California has a clue.
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