March 20, 2019
March 20, 2019
Yountville, CA — Officials with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) are threatening to evict an 84-year-old widow from the California Veterans Home unless she halts longtime Bible studies she has been leading for fellow residents.
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) represents Artis Breau, the widow who has come under fire. Artis and her late husband moved to the Veterans Home about nine years ago. Her husband had served as a Merchant Marine in World War II, served in the famed 82nd Airborne Division overseas, and then served in the Air Force during the Korean War. Meanwhile, Artis worked as a civilian employee in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army at the Pentagon during the Korean War.
For much of the past decade, Artis has volunteered with the chaplaincy program and led Bible studies in the Home. She began encountering opposition from officials last September when it was claimed that a discussion between herself and another resident about heaven and hell had allegedly caused him to lose sleep and therefore was elder abuse, emotional abuse, and otherwise illegal.
In mid-December, the Home notified Artis that her volunteer status was being suspended indefinitely due to the ongoing investigation. Nearly three months later, CalVet has yet to schedule an interview with Artis about the alleged complaint; yet she remains barred from volunteering in any official role. However, until this past week she had been permitted to continue leading Bible studies for some of the Home’s most elderly and mobility-challenged residents—many of whom cannot get to chapel services.
On Friday, March 1, PJI received an alarming e-mail from an attorney for CalVet, claiming Artis’ Bible studies were in violation of prior directives and would subject her to “involuntary discharge” from the Home if they continued. The Home claims it needs to protect residents from this elderly widow, even though attendance at her Bible studies is entirely voluntary. Artis has explained to PJI that the real issue is that she is an evangelical Jewish believer in Jesus, which does not sit well with some of the chaplains.
PJI sent a strongly-worded response to the State on Friday and is weighing all legal options. PJI Attorney Matthew McReynolds, who has been representing Artis, commented, “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, president of PJI, stated, “This shocking attack from the State against our client’s exercise of religious convictions is deeply disturbing. 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.”
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