On 5 June 2019, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) reported that an 85-year-old widow had been forced out of her long-time apartment in Hanford, Calif., “due to her religious convictions and advanced age,” prompting Snopes.com readers to question whether the report could be believed.
The report’s sole source was a press release published by Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a non-profit legal advocacy organization that specializes “in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties.” The press released served as the basis for stories run by other news outlets, including by Fox News. PJI has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as an anti-LGBT hate group.
PJI alleged that in early February 2019, 85-year-old Diana Martin was informed by her landlord, John Draxler, that she was being evicted from her unit at Windgate Village Apartments in Hanford, a city in central California, despite her being up-to-date on her rent and in the midst of a year-to-year rental agreement. PJI stated that Draxler “cited her religious activities — sharing her faith and offering to pray for people — as reasons why she must find a new home.”
We reached out to Draxler, who is vice mayor for Hanford, for comment but had received no response to our inquiry by the time of publication.
We were able to confirm that Martin filed a complaint against Windgate Village Apartments with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, but because the case is ongoing an agency spokeswoman was unable to provide additional details on the complaint.
“We are hopeful that a State investigation and remedial action will ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else in this community,” PJI attorney Matt McReynolds said in the organization’s press release. McReynolds didn’t respond to our requests for comment on the case.
PJI further alleged that Martin had a falling out with building management over “their attempt to take away her longtime parking space and reassign her to one some distance from her door and next to a dumpster. Martin had raised safety concerns about homeless men foraging in the dumpster, so the move seemed retaliatory.”