Residents of a Westmont public housing complex for seniors said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that they were coerced and harassed by management into practicing Christianity and pressured to attend Bible study classes.
Five former and current residents of the complex, along with housing advocate Hope Fair Housing, are suing the complex and its property manager, saying they used “coercive, harassing and restrictive rules and regulations to impose their ‘Christian’ beliefs upon current residents.”
Hope Fair Housing, based in Wheaton, also alleges the complex only invites low-income Chinese tenants and discriminates against any other potential residents.
The defendants in the case include the Illinois Chinese American Residence for the Elderly, 501 N. Cass Ave. in Westmont, Angela Yuan, president of the board of directors, and Providence Management and Development Company Inc.
Hid in bathrooms, residents say
Elderly non-Christian residents of the 60-unit complex said they live in a “religiously hostile and intimidating environment,” where they are barred from using common rooms for anything non-Christian, including card playing, according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs Shen Tong Bea Tu, 87, and Yue Ru Lee, 86, who are non-Christian, say they hid in their apartment bathrooms with the lights off every Wednesday so they wouldn’t be forced to attend Bible classes.
Other tenants claim in the lawsuit that Yuan visited them individually and demanded they kneel down with her and pray after she learned they had played Mah Jongg, a Chinese game similar to dominoes, in the building.
Yuan was not available for comment, but her husband, reached at home late Monday, said his wife volunteered her time at the complex for 20 years with the intention of helping the needy.
An attorney for the development company could not be reached for comment.