This is the kind of story that turns your stomach. A couple in Southern California that runs a pair of Christian group homes for the mentally and physically disabled kept them in what a court calls terrible conditions and forced them to attend religious services, punishing them if they didn’t.
Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit against Agape Mission House and Agape Home Church, unlicensed assisted-care facilities, alleging that residents lived in overcrowded and substandard conditions.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge last Friday appointed a receiver to immediately begin relocating residents from the homes in the 2200 block of South Hobart Boulevard.
The suit names Kang Won Lee and Jung Hwan Lee, a husband and wife, as operators of the facilities, both registered as charities. Neither of the Lees could be reached for comment.
Residents were punished for failing to attend religious services twice a day regardless of their individual beliefs, court documents said. The punishments allegedly included being made to stand by a tree for up to four hours, translate Bible verses for an entire day and sleep outside at night.
“He calls himself pastor and does force all the residents to attend religious services,” said Assistant City Atty. Jose Egurbide, adding that the two homes were packed with “as many as 80 residents.”
Court records described swarms of flies, broken furniture and missing bedroom doors. Some residents slept in bunk beds crowded into small rooms with 1-inch pads instead of mattresses. One resident lived in a “storage room” and others in an attic.
“These residents are among the most vulnerable in our society and they were forced to live a daily nightmare,” Feuer said. “We are bringing that nightmare to a close.”
I don’t know about California, but some states exempt religious facilities of this type, and day care centers, from regulation and oversight on religious freedom grounds.