You can be fined for holding Bible studies in your home in California

by Terry 26 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Terry

    Faith California City Fines Couple for Holding Bible Study in Their Home

    Photo via Flickr user Erwin Vogelaar

    A southern California couple has been fined $300 dollars for holding Christian Bible study sessions in their home, and could face another $500 for each additional gathering.

    City officials in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. say Chuck and Stephanie Fromm are in violation of municipal code 9-3.301, which prohibits “religious, fraternal or non-profit” organizations in residential neighborhoods without a permit. Stephanie hosts a Wednesday Bible study that draws about 20 attendees, and Chuck holds a Sunday service that gets about 50.

    The Fromms appealed their citations but were denied and warned future sessions would carry heftier penalties. A statement from the Pacific Justice Institute, which is defending the couple in a lawsuit against the city, said Chuck Fromm was also told regular gatherings of three or more people require a conditional use permit, which can be costly and difficult to obtain.

    “How dare they tell us we can’t have whatever we want in our home,” Stephanie Fromm told the Capistrano Dispatch. “We want to be able to use our home. We’ve paid a lot and invested a lot in our home and backyard … I should be able to be hospitable in my home.”

    According to the Dispatch, the Fromms live in a neighborhood with large homes and have a corral, barn, pool and huge back lawn on their property, so parking and noise aren’t a problem.

    “There’s no singing or music,” Stephanie said. “It’s meditative.”

    The Dispatch reported a code-enforcement officer gave the Fromms a verbal warning about the meetings in May, then returned to issue citations in June and July. According to the paper, the city’s code-enforcement department is reactive, meaning they only respond to complaints.

    Stephanie said most of their neighbors are very supportive, although she said one has voiced concerns in the past.

    “We don’t like lawsuits, but we have to stand up for what’s right. It’s not just a personal issue,” she said. “Can you imagine anybody in any neighborhood, that one person can call and make it a living hell for someone else? That’s wrong … and it’s just sad.”

    San Juan Capistrano’s religious roots run deep — the city is best known for a historic Catholic mission built in the 1700s.

    “Imposing a heavy-handed permit requirement on a home Bible study is outrageous,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute. “An informal gathering in a home cannot be treated with suspicion by the government, or worse than any other gathering of friends, just because it is religious.”

    “We cannot allow this to happen in America, and we will fight as long and as hard as it takes to restore this group’s religious freedom.”

  • leavingwt

    The ACLU needs to sue the city. If the 1st Amendment won't protect Religion/Assembly, what is it good for?

  • cedars

    Wow, what a bizarre law. I don't know what to think. On the one hand I wish this legislation could be used to limit witness activity, but on the other hand I don't think such legislation should exist, because surely you should be able to do whatever the hell you like in your own home so long as nobody gets hurt?!! A dilemma...

  • sir82

    "In California" or in the city of San Juan Capistrano?

    The article doesn't indicate it is a statewide law. It's a pretty important distinction - does it affect 20 million people or 20,000?

  • Gayle

    Thx Terry! Interesting. Only thing I can think of, is if twice a week there are 20-50 cars parked around next door regularly could be disconcerting to some?

  • NewChapter

    I'm thinking zoning issues. When does the activity elevate from simple bible study in the home to actually operating a church in the home. Should be interesting to watch this play out in the courts. Considering that many churches don't have a permanent home---and often rent or share space---perhaps this is the issue at hand. I'm not taking sides, just trying to see the bigger issue. Lot's of cars parked regularly in a residential zone could aggravate neighbors and change the nature of the neighborhood---residents purchased homes expecting residential activity---which is what zoning is all about. Are they abusing some aspect of this? Again, I don't know, and have no opinion. It would be intersting to see exactly what complaint the city has.


  • blondie
  • hamsterbait

    The law actually states "REGULAR" gatherings of more than three people.

    It is not specifically to stop babble studies.

    What disturbs me is the potential to curb family association too.

    Suppose you like to have your Son and his family to dinner on a Sunday evening?

    Suppose you get together regularly at Christmas?

    This law is going too far. As long as what you do in your home does not injure your neighbours or cause antisocial levels of noise, you should do what you want in your home.

    Families get together regularly at home for breakfast and dinner. Is this illegal too? What if the only night you entertain is Saturday, and most weeks you have guests?

    What about the Governors Home? Doesnt he regularly have gatherings of more than three people?



  • Alfred

    just like the whole jimmy swaggart tax scandal, the wt lawyers are once again way ahead of everyone else... they probably saw this coming way in advance and advised the governing body to spin this into a "family worship night" before anyone can associate the eventual enforcement of this california code with the discontinuation of the book study...

  • JeffT

    Hamsterbait raises a could point. Do I need a permit to invite four friends over every Monday night to watch football? How about ten of us meeting on Wednesday's to campaign for Barack Obama?

    The city needs to be taken to court for having such a stupid law on the books.

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