Authorities ban home bible study in San Diego
Authorities ban home bible study in San Diego
Freedom of religion is pretty much the foundation upon which this country was started. Europeans fled here to escape religious persecution, so that they could practice their beliefs freely and without fear. That freedom was protected in the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A little over two hundred years later, we’ve come full circle. We’re right back to religious persecution again, albeit not in the way people automatically think. In our modern age, persecution doesn’t so much mean killing someone over their religion. It’s more along the lines of banning the practice of your faith, and then fining and jailing you if you continue. What’s next?
And sadly, the above scenario is actually being played out in San Diego, California. A home bible study has been prohibited, and the couple who held the bible study was notified on Good Friday. Classy, huh?
A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold Bible studies in their home, 10News reported.
Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.
Broyles said, “The county asked, ‘Do you have a regular meeting in your home?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say amen?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say praise the Lord?’ ‘Yes.'”
The county employee notified the couple that the small Bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of County regulations, according to Broyles.
Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed “unlawful use of land” and told them to “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit” — a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
“For churches and religious assemblies there’s big parking concerns, there’s environmental impact concerns when you have hundreds or thousands of people gathering. But this is a different situation, and we believe that the application of the religious assembly principles to this Bible study is certainly misplaced,” said Broyles.
News of the case has rapidly spread across Internet blogs and has spurred various reactions.
… Broyles also said this case has broader implications.
“If the county thinks they can shut down groups of 10 or 15 Christians meeting in a home, what about people who meet regularly at home for poker night? What about people who meet for Tupperware parties? What about people who are meeting to watch baseball games on a regular basis and support the Chargers?” Broyles asked.
… If the County refuses to release the pastor and his wife from obtaining the permit, they will consider a lawsuit in federal court.
It’s good to see that the couple is not taking this lying down. Because what would the implications of this be? Let’s say we agreed that you couldn’t hold religious services in your home for some insane reason, and they could only be held in a place of religious worship, i.e. a temple, a church, a synagogue, whatever. How long do you think it would be before they came for those places as well?
I attended similar meetings every other week in high school. I was a member of my church’s youth group, and we went to a conference every year. Part of the responsibility of attending that conference was attending the bimonthly meetings. We studied the bible, we discussed theology, we prayed. The youth group ministers were a husband and wife, Sal and Maria, an elderly couple from up north. Sal was also the deacon at my church. There were usually around 15 – 20 teenagers there. Would this meeting have been shut down if it had taken place in San Diego today? We prayed. We read the bible. We said the Our Father, the Haily Mary, and the Glory Be to end each meeting. We gave prayer intentions each meeting as well.
I know that technically one could say that this isn’t our battle. But the thing is, it really should be. Getting away with infringing upon our rights is always hardest the first time, just like lying or stealing or cheating is always hardest the first time you do it. After you do it and get away with it, you become emboldened. And you continue to do it. And if San Diego County is allowed to get away with this, do you really think they won’t continue down this road?
Stand with the First Amendment. Support freedom of religion. You can sign the petition here. Or, you can take the time to go straight to the source yourself and contact San Diego County officials. I personally would recommend the Office of Internal Affairs. Here’s the contact info for the Office of Internal Affairs:
1600 Pacific Highway, Room #400
San Diego, CA 92101, USA
Phone: (619) 531-5174
Fax: (619) 685-2514