An 84-year-old widow claims California officials are threatening to kick her out of a residence for veterans if she doesn’t stop hosting a longtime Bible study.
Artis Breau and her husband moved to the Veterans’ Home of California in Yountville nine years ago. Breau’s husband, who died a few years ago, served as a Merchant Marine, Army, in World War II and then, during the Korean War he served in the Air Force. The two met in the 1950s while she worked at the Pentagon as a civilian employee in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army.
She has been volunteering with the chaplaincy program and led Bible studies much of the last decade at an area of the residence known as the Holderman Building, which is a shared space for residents of the home. Recently, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) notified Breau that she would face “involuntary discharge,” or expulsion, from the home if she doesn’t give up her status as a volunteer Bible study leader.
“This shocking attack from the state against our client’s exercise of religious convictions is deeply disturbing,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the firm representing Breau. “The state seeks to punish Artis based on non-existent directives, and deprive her of a personal ministry to the veterans who have benefited from her religious services for years. Artis 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.”
Breau came under fire for a discussion she had last September with another resident about heaven and hell that allegedly caused the man to lose sleep and was deemed “elder abuse, emotional abuse, and otherwise illegal,” according to PJI.
In December, the veterans home notified Breau that her volunteer status was being suspended indefinitely due to an ongoing investigation. She said she has not had an interview scheduled with CalVet officials about the alleged complaint.
Until last week, she was allowed to continue to lead the Bible study for some of CalVet’s most elderly and mobility-challenged residents who have a hard time attending chapel services.
But on Friday, a CalVet attorney threatened Breau with expulsion if she didn’t stop offering the voluntary Bible studies. The attorney claims the decision was for the “health and wellbeing” of the residents.
“The safety, security, and wellbeing of all of our residents is our top priority. We are very proud of the religious services provided to all of our residents through our chaplaincy services. This investigation concerns the private conduct of an individual. Beyond that, we are unable to comment on an ongoing investigation,” Lindsey Sin, deputy secretary of Women Veterans Affairs at CalVet, said in a statement.
Breau is an Evangelical Jew and believes in Jesus. She told PJI she believes people have an issue with her religious beliefs.The California-based law firm is weighing all options on behalf of Breau.