The city’s action is a brazen violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees free worship without government intervention.
I don't think the 1st Amendment guarantees NO government intervention, dear WAC (peace to you!). Otherwise, there shouldn't have been a problem with (and thus, an attempted intervention by a U.S. Senator in)... the whole Jim Jones/Jamestown matter... which actually occurred in an entirely different country (Guyana) but involved U.S. citizens.
This matter was discuss on another thread (http://www.jehovahs-witness.net/watchtower/bible/216022/1/You-can-be-fined-for-holding-Bible-studies-in-your-home-in-California) and what some don't understand (and was brought out there) is that the government DOES have the right to zone. Which it did in this case. They are not saying the Frommes can't believe what they want... or even practice their religion. They're saying they can't hold "regular gatherings" of more than three people in their home... without a permit. Here, a "conditional use" permit... which is required for all businesses (that have clients/customers coming to the site) in a residential zone. Since the meetings are held in the Frommes home, they could be denied a permit; however, the article doesn't indicate that but that they have not even APPLIED for one. Now, if they APPLY... and are DENIED... then they might have a "case" because the county board of supervisors/votes COULD issue one.
Since the government can't actually say what constitutes a religion (they have tried, but so far are only able to do so to the extent of controlling tax-exempt status)... how can they say that folks getting together to observe OTHER "religious" practices, say, sacrificing some chickens... or dogs... or both... in the backyard (which, by the way, many asian immigrants used to do in the late 80's or so...) is illegal? How do you then stop the "partiers" et al., who SAY they're "practicing [THEIR] religion"? What about the "holy rollers"... whose loud singing and tambourine playing, etc.? Can you place a "noise" control on them... without violating THEIR "religious freedom" ("Your Honor, we're told in the Bible to 'make a joyful NOISE to God' and your injunction will violate our 1st Amendment RIGHT to freedom of religion!").
I agree that folks should be able to come together for "fellowship" in their homes... from time to time. Doing it "regularly", I'm not so sure. I own my own home... and I didn't buy it next to a church... nor do I want to live next to one. So, okay, maybe they're not singing hymns... but what's to stop them if they decide to do so? Or... what's to stop the guy down the street from actually having, say, 50 people regularly come for a Bible study, etc., in HIS home? How can you say he can't... yet, these folks can have "regular" meetings? Will not putting an "attendance" restriction fall under violation of HIS freedom of religion (to "not forsake the gathering of yourselves together")?
Almost every business run from a home requires some kind of permit if customers/clients are going to come to the home (just having an office is usually exempt). I truly do not think this is an attack on religion... but on commercial activity being conducted without a permit... and in a residential location.
But the MAIN problem that I see... is insurance. If something happened in the Frommes home to any one of the attendees... and these are "regular" attendees at a "religious" gathering... the insurance provider MAY take their presence out of the mere "guest" category... and if so, I highly doubt that their homeowners' insurance would cover any injuries... because folks are attending an illegal (non-permitted) meeting. Leaving any injured/victims not only vulnerable... but probably a-out.
Because being able to get INSURANCE... or at least give victims some legal recourse if/when injurd... is the underlying reason WHY permitting for "regular" meetings... is required: so that your INSURANCE carrier is aware... and put on notice if something "happens." And something always tends to "happen," doesn't it... when there's no permit.
The government isn't always bad, dear one. Sometimes, they really do have regulations that intend to protect people (and yes, raise revenue, I do not deny).
Again, peace to you!
A slave of Christ,