A recent story from California has been showing up in the news – a couple hold a Bible Study in their home and the police told them they have to apply for a permit. Of course, the story blew up (especially) on conservative websites – as in – the California liberals are controlling whether or not Christians can meet in their own homes.
FOX news, May 28, 2009, “Couple Ordered to Stop Holding Bible Study at Home Without Permit”:
Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.
“On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county.” David Jones told FOX News.
“We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all,” Jones said.
A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited “unlawful use of land,” ordering them to either “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit,” the couple’s attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.
But the major use permit could cost the Jones’ thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.
For David and Mary Jones, it’s about more than a question of money.
“The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion,” Broyles told FOX News. “I believe that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their grave if they saw that here in the year 2009, a pastor and his wife are being told that they cannot hold a simple Bible study in their own home.”
FOX news summary of the story? A few friends + thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for a religious assembly in a home.
They actually picked up the story from 10News (which they reference above). 10News has a little more detail:
Every Tuesday night about 15 people drive to Jones’ Bonita home to eat dinner and discuss the Bible. They usually park on Jones’ property, he said, but sometimes that parking spills out into the cul-de-sac.
Last month, someone filed a complaint about the number of cars. (Source)
So, it’s not “a few friends” which sounds like two or three people, but 15 people – which lead to parking problems and a neighbor calling the police. So, here are the things not mentioned in the FOX news story: the actual number of visitors, parking problems, and a neighbor calling the police to file a complaint.
According to Snopes, the neighbor’s complaint was triggered when one of the Bible-Study members dinged their car. (Although, the pastor ended up paying for the damage.)
On Friday, in a written statement, the county’s chief administrative officer Walt Eckard said, “The county has never tried to stifle religious express and never will. This is a land use issue; it is not an issue of religious expression.” (Source)
The Jones are continuing to claim that this is a “religious expression” issue, not a parking issue, or an attempt by police to placate a complaining neighbor. Admittedly, the news reports say that the police did ask whether or not the Jones were holding a religious assembly, but they say that this had to do with the type of permit needed.
And the latest news:
Jones said he does not believe the county is being truthful. He said they have been most interested in the religious practice and not parking issues since the beginning.
10News learned that the American Civil Liberties Union has come out in favor of Jones.
In a late-breaking development, Jones’ attorney Dean Broyles said he received a call from an assistant counsel for the county, who told him the county is withdrawing its citation. (Source)
I’m sure the right-wing media is very unhappy about the ACLU getting involved on behalf of the Christians. It totally blows their whole narrative about evil liberals/non-believers suppressing religious expression. The “Christian persecution at the hands of liberals” stories are great business for FOX and also helps polarize Christians. I’ve searched FOX news for any updates or clarifications on the situation, but haven’t found any.