San Juan Capistrano Fines Family for Reading Bible without Permit

The city of San Juan Capistrano, California is laying heavy fines on a local couple for hosting semi-regular bible readings in their home. From the Los Angeles CBS affiliate

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.

That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.

The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI…

After city officials rejected the Fromms’ appeal, PJI, which represents other Bible study participants, will appeal the decision to the California Superior Court in Orange County…

Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.

The city attorney says the meetings have attracted “up to 50 people.” He claims the meetings are held Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons, which would mean gross revenue of $1,000 a week for a city where the utilities agencies alone run at a deficit more than a third the size of their total budget, and whose finances are being subject to lengthy and expensive audits. 

Here is a handy timeline [pdf] of the city’s campaign against the Fromms’ bible readings at chuckfromm.net. 

Pacific Justice Institute president Brad Dacus notes the irony of the city’s violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious expression in a city that was founded as a mission by Junipero Serra and is best known for a quasi-religious legend about cliff swallows. “In a city so rich with religious history and tradition, this is particularly egregious,” Dacus says in a PJI statement. “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.”

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  • ||

    I didn't notice the language in the statute saying that religious gatherings in particular, as opposed to secular ones, required a permit. So the playing of the "freedo of religion" card is a tad out of place.

    The law is probably based on traffic and parking problems and the need to word it so that truly externa-riffic powwows can be broken up.

  • Some dude||

    Out of place? How can they enjoy the free exercise of religion if it costs them $500 in fines every time?

  • ||

    My beef is with the idea that reading the Bible should be more privileged than reading back issues of Popular Mechanics.

    The lawyer's quote oozes with this supposition, and Cavanaugh not only approvingly quotes him but implies in his title that this is a matter of religious persecution.

  • MJ||

    Then your beef is with the framers of the 1st Amendment who specifically put in Religious activities as a Constitutionally protected class of activities.

    The quote lifted from the CBS station implies that religious gatherings require a permit (while others may not).

  • Zeb||

    1A also protects the general freedom to assemble. I would say that the religion part is what says that religious gatherings should be treated no differently from any other gathering. It doesn't say freedom of religion, it says no laws about religion.

  • MJ||

    It says "no laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion". Subjecting a relgious gatering to potential fines seems to problematic.
    Though I undrrstand your point, this ordinance bumps up against several 1st A clauses.

  • ||

    So the playing of the "freedo of religion" card is a tad out of place.

    My beef is with the idea that reading the Bible should be more privileged than reading back issues of Popular Mechanics.

    This is why I never read anything this douchebag as to say. Only three posts in and we have these boulders of stupidity. Exercising your religion a "privilege." Really dude, could you just shut the fuck up and go bother Daily Kos or something?

    See here Sparky the Genius, that 1A thingy, it trumps everything. Everything! So fuck the city. If they litter, ticket them for littering. If someone parks on someones else's lawn, tow the car off the offended property.

  • ||

    WTF? A religious gathering should be no more exempted than a book club.

    BUT THEY BOTH SHOULD BE HANDLED DIFFERENTLY.

    If its a parking problem, fine the illegal parking. If no one is parked illegally, STFU San Juan C bureaucrats.

  • Matt||

    "See here Sparky the Genius, that 1A thingy, it trumps everything. Everything!"

    No. It doesn't. Just because you are doing something (religion) that there can't be any *specific* laws about, does not mean there can't be laws prohibiting you from doing it in a certain place or in a certain way.

    By your logic, I'm free to walk into the White House, or any private residence, and start yelling about Jesus because it's about religion, and any attempt to stop me is unconstitutional! Except the law says that I'm not allowed to enter private property without permission (except in certain narrowly defined cases). The fact that I happen to be spouting religious talk when I do it is irrelevant to the First Amendment.

    In this case, SJC has city ordinances saying that any gathering over a certain size, you need a permit, to help offset the infrastructural costs involved in all the extra parking and other city services that might be needed as a result. If you have 100 people coming to your house every Sunday, and taking up every free parking space for three blocks, that's not behavior that the city (which is made up of your neighbors, too) wants to make free. So they make you get a permit.

    1A says "...no law respecting an establishment of religion," not "...no law that could ever impede someone who happens to be doing religious things."

  • stgilbert||

    So, if 5 or more people go to a super bowl party at this house, according to the ordinance, they also should be fined. Don't hear about any fines for that! This is discriminatory, plain and simple, as many of the comments here are as well.

  • ||

    Maybe if they simply obtained a permit, they wouldn't get fined.

  • ||

    Should they really have to pay the city for permission to have company over?

  • ATLien||

    ANY "gatherings of more than 3 people" need a permit. I have more people than that come over on saturday or sunday during football season. so i should have to pay $500 every time friends come over to play Madden?

  • Matt||

    Three people is way too small to be a reasonable limitation, but that doesn't make it unconstitutional. It just makes it stupid.

  • JD the elder||

    "the right of the people peaceably to assemble..." If you require a permit for basically any gathering, I'd venture to say that's not respecting that right.

  • PantsFan||

    Yeah, what if it was a swinger party?

  • ||

    Exactly!! Swingers have weekly sex parties in that city all the time and no one tries to make them pay as if its an illegal gathering.

  • ||

    That's because swingers know better than to draw attention to themselves by inconveniencing their neighbors.

  • ||

    You must have missed this part of the linked article:

    "Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI."

  • ||

    Seriously, this sounds like the cit bureaucrats wanting more money for their pensions (whoever wrote the goddamn law).

  • ||

    Hard to keep the gravy train running smoothly when plump bureaucrats are still jumping on..

    Most city workers spend decades in public service to build up modest pensions. But for former labor leader Dennis Gannon, the keys to securing a public pension were one day on the city payroll and some help from the Daley administration.

    -link

  • sevo||

    "The law is probably based on traffic and parking problems and the need to word it so that truly externa-riffic powwows can be broken up"

    Yeah, they need to word it so they can deny speech to folks based on parking problems.
    Why didn't they think of that?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The family's timeline cites the ordinance they were accused of violating:

    "section 903.301 which identifies *Religious,* fraternal, or nonprofit organizations (nonprofit) as uses which require approval of a conditional use permit." [emphasis added]

    The PJI summarizes the charges like this:

    “The City of San Juan Capistrano is insisting the home Bible study is not allowed *because it is a “church,”* and churches require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) in residential areas.” [emphasis added]

    So as I understand it, they're specifically accused of using their home to host a Religious organization.

    I'm not even sure a swingers' club would be covered by the ordinance - is such a club religious, fraternal or nonprofit?

  • robc||

    Basically, Tulpa cant read.

  • ||

    swingers clubs could be considered non-profit...

    ...I imagine the "for profit" establishments have to meet even more onerous requirements.

    Conditional Use Permits are a crock a shit.

  • BakedPenguin||

    is such a club religious, fraternal or nonprofit?

    Nonprofit, unless they charge. If they're gay swingers, it's also fraternal.

  • cynical||

    It's ok, T-dawg. I actually agree with you -- to me, the freedom of religion described in the first means that government should not be able to penalize or privilege religion; laws that indirectly affect religion are legit, but if judges detect that the law is intended to punish religious practice then they might still be unconstitutional.

    Hell, we might have more liberty in this country if true believers actually had to fight for everyone's right to hold a bible study or smoke peyote instead of just trying to carve out an illegitimate exemption for themselves.

  • ||

    So, would a weekly Bridge club, or a secular book of the month club also require use permit? How about routinely having a few friends over for Monday Night Football?

    Is there any record of this being enforced upon anyone else?

    If not then this positively screams selectivee enforcement and religious discrimination.

  • SIV||

    Persecuting Christians never works out in the long term. They thrive on it.

  • ||

    As an atheist it shouldn't bother me, but you dishonor the Christian victims of actual persecution when you say such things. Just like a Jew who compares every little bad break to the Holocaust should be ashamed of him or herself.

  • robc||

    persecution != martyrdom.

    Calling them martyrs would be equivalent to what you are saying. Persecutions can be big or little.

  • ||

    I think you are misunderstanding his intent. The Bible says at Isaiah 54:17 " Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success, and any tongue at all that will rise up against you in the judgment you will condemn."

    So, whatever weapon, big or small. That is if this is in fact a weapon `being used against` them. but if this isn't persecution then I guess this would be moot.
    Of course, this would only really apply to true christians, as the rest of the scripture says "...This is the hereditary possession of the servants of Jehovah..."

  • ||

    Isaiah is in the Tanach and therefore applies to Jews as written, not Christians.

  • ||

    Way to be obscure! Make a reference almost no one knows, then claim some kind of authority from it!

    Are you not little miss know it all!

    Perhaps Miss Rabbi could explain, how she can tell the Christians, what they are supposed to have in their bible, and what they are not supposed to have?

  • John Snew||

    MissBrooks did not recommend that you rip the prophet Isaiah from your Bible, but was instead enlightening you as to the book's context and application. Additional paroxysms are unneeded.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    But it is a good way to keep you Purina Lion chow budget under control...

  • ||

    The city is violating the parishioners' civil rights. They should be suing every apparatchik involved in this personally.

    -jcr

  • ||

    I thought you don't have to read the bible if you're Christian...

  • PantsFan||

    you don't have to do anything if you're a Christian

  • God; win.||

    You know who else had gatherings of more than 3 people?

  • ||

    The Bible says that whenever two Christians are gathered in Jesus' name, Jesus is there, too. Which would put the three of them in violation of this ordinance.

  • ||

    Ah, the ordinance says more than three. That undermines my joke. :-(

  • ||

    Well, let's not forget what the state did to Jesus...

    -jcr

  • ||

    Well, let's not forget what the state did to Jesus...

    -jcr

  • ||

    Anybody who has friends over to play Bridge on a regular basis.

  • sarcasmic||

    Your mom?

  • ||

    Nothing like getting to the point. One for Godwin!

  • ||

    If this were a group of Wiccians nobody would be amused. There would be bogus calls about noise, trash, parking and missing pets. The cops would be there every time and for far less then 50 people.
    I say let the people have there Bible group twice a week. When the fire truck can not make it past all the cars to put out a fire at a home down the street the Christians will be happy to pay a fine or be sued.Right?

  • ||

    Have you ever been around a group of Wiccans? They smell like low-grade weed.

  • o2||

    what about that brown van full of satanists?

  • ||

    Seriously, the amount of people shouldn't be the issue, the noise or parking violations should be the focus. This just sounds like government trying to get another cut for funding their own pensions.

  • Zeb||

    Or, more likely, they will park in such a way that it is not a problem for anyone.

  • ||

    I read on another site yesterday that they own three acres and none of the bible study group park on the street.

  • submandave||

    "If this were a group of Wiccians ... there would be bogus calls about noise, trash, parking and missing pets."

    Find an instance of this sort and then complain about that injustice, but I tire of the "they would do worse" non-argument being used to justify people picking on or making fun of Christians. When you use a bogus, invented example of what you imagine a hypothetical stereotypical group of Christians doing to counter an actual, real-life, documented injustice you're only indulging in Calvin Ball, so STFU.

  • ||

    Do the Fromm's consider this a house church? If so then I think the city has a valid point. If it is just a study group that meets regularly like any book club then they have over reached. I'm afraid many of my brethren have a persecution complex when very little of it truly exists in our nation. This is especially true of the fringe believers who meet in houses because them churches are full of hypocrites.

  • rsi||

    Isn't that state recognition of a religion?

  • rsi||

    i mean if you have qualify as a religious group vs, say, and Ayn rand worship group, doesn't mean has recognized a a religion as official?

    Like an state sanctioned official journalist?

  • o2||

    the persecution complex is cultivated by christian leaders to fund raise.

  • ||

    With bureaucratic dipshits providing free fertilizer.

  • Matthew 18:20||

    For where there are two or three gathered together -- to my name, there am I in the midst of them.

    Young's Literal Translation

  • Matthew 18:20||

    ubi enim sunt duo vel tres congregati in nomine meo ibi sum in medio eorum

    Latin Vulgate Translation

  • sevo||

    "Do the Fromm's consider this a house church? If so then I think the city has a valid point."

    Really?
    Free speech is only allowed if it's not a church?
    I'll take another look at Amendment 1 and see where I missed that.

  • ||

    My point is that this would make it a zoning issue, not a free speech issue. Do libertarians have a persecution complex too?

  • Racist Zoning Board Member||

    Oislander is correct, our intentions have nothing to do with abridging peoples rights. It just happened that we zoned all dem darkies out of our neighborhoods and into slums.

  • ||

    I know your aversion to zoning laws- but - (I shouldn't say this here)- do you want any and all uses on any parcel in America? (go ahead start the feeding frenzy)

  • ||

    Short answer, part a: There are other ways to restrict land usage, such as covenants.

    Short answer, part b: Natural incentives, having to-do with real estate prices and the importance of particular non-residential locations to particular types of businesses, discourage hypothetical nightmare scenarios from actually happening.

  • ||

    umm, wouldn't a covenant be a zone with a different name, as it would be legally binding restriction on land use.

  • ||

    do you want any and all uses on any parcel in America?

    Yes. Why are you averse to basic freedom?

  • Matt||

    Exactly. Why *shouldn't* they build a toxin-spewing heavy industrial chemical plant right next to a school?

  • ||

    Right, because Houston is SUCH a mess. The most insidious thing about bureaucrats is they get the proles to start believing that they have an actual positive influence with their intrusions - as if life couldn't possibly continue without their benevolent oversight.

  • ||

    Houston is not zoned, but just try building a strip club anywhere near a church, school or residential area. It won't happen. There are so many land restriction laws on the books now, the only places that you do find the disparity in have been that way for decades, but as soon as that business fails, good luck trying to restart something similar at that location.

  • Rev. Blue Moon||

    The race card was cute in college.

    Now it's just pathetic.

  • tarran||

    Ah, so the truth is pathetic now and should be ignored.

  • ||

    Do libertarians have a persecution complex too?

    Libertarians are the Jews of the 21st century. Though they're much less funny.

  • flye||

    I became a Libertarian for the jokes.

  • Gojira||

    Honestly, the lols I get from the comments on this site are the best reason to be a libertarian (you probably don't know this because you are one, but the website doesn't work for non-libertarians. Cosmos can access the site, but frequently suffer from double-posts).

  • rsi||

    I love the blue/red staters who fly in here and scream "You didn't complain when Clinton/Bush did this!!"

  • '05Train||

    I became a Libertarian so the other Rush fans wouldn't mock me.

  • ||

    My point is that this would make it a zoning issue, not a free speech issue.

    Bullshit. Zoning is nothing more or less than a catch-all for local governments to fuck with anyone who doesn't obey them.

    -jcr

  • robc||

    Zoning a church is a violation of the 1st amendment.

    Hell, zoning in general violates the 5th. And the 9th.

  • John Marshall||

    So are we going to reargue Marbury v. Madison now?

  • ||

    While this particular instance might please Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, the basic question is: Why in Hell should the City have any right to regulate a business, home-based or not?

    I can see that the neighbors might have cause for complaint if the members of the congregation/meeting group/whatever overcrowded the street and the parking, but otherwise the city should butt out.

  • jude||

    "I can see that the neighbors might have cause for complaint if the members of the congregation/meeting group/whatever overcrowded the street and the parking"

    But isn't that the crux of the complaint. They had upwards of 50 people sometimes, which would definitely cause parking problems.

  • robc||

    Except no neighbors had complained, so apparently it wasnt a problem.

  • Llama Face||

    If it's a parking problem, then perhaps the authorities should address the actual problem by ticketing or towing vehicles parked on the city streets, instead of trying to interfere in and regulate the actitities of private citizens in their own homes....

  • ATLien||

    READ THE ARTICLE, DOUCHENOZZLE.

    The neighbors are supporting the Fromms, they have not complained.

  • rst||

    So if I've got two friends who come over regularly to brew beer, and my wife decides to joins us, we have to get a permit?

    What diploma mill made that city attorney into a lawyer? That shit is indefensible.

  • PantsFan||

    It's all about the parking

  • Gojira||

    I'm amazed no one has brought up the right to peaceably assemble. They're petitioning God for redress of grievances.

    Really though there's no excuse for the executive arm of the city to be involved here unless the cars were causing a zombie apocalypse hazard (not ruling it out, this is a religous group after all). Why can't the neighbors take them to small claims court or something over the parking issue, if it's really causing them problems? Let the parties work it out, no ordinances or cops required.

  • ||

    There's no right to petition God, only the government.

  • Whappan?||

    YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!

  • Matt||

    JESUS DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY

  • ||

    There is no right for Tulpa to be such an asshat

  • robc||

    9th amendment.

  • Llama Face||

    I bet your mom is really proud that you're so high functioning.

    There's a right to pray unmolested by the government. So long as citizens have the right to pray, they have the right to petition their god.

    Seriously, please go home and exercise your second amendment rights directly through the back of your skull.

  • yonemoto||

    unless you're Tony, because then you're petitioning Godvernment.

  • SIV||

    The neighbors had no problem with it-RTFA.

  • Gojira||

    Um, I did RTFA asswipe. I'm saying there's no need for the ordinance to begin with; if anyone SHOULD have a problem, it could easily be resolved in a small claims court. I didn't say the neighbors in this particular case had a problem with it, I was offering an alternative to burdensome city ordinances.

  • ||

    Are you arguing that homeowners have some claim of ownership to on-street parking?

  • ||

    Umm, if its a parking issue, ticket the illegally parked cars, not the homeowners.

  • ||

    Exactly! Freedom of association.

  • mike||

    exactly... suppose this was every saturday or sunday football? or D&D or whatever else? Having more than 3 people to your property on a regular basis requires a freakin permit?

  • ||

    What if you have 3 kids? Do you need a permit for dinner?

  • ATLien||

    DUMBASS. READ THE ARTICLE. Parking has nothing to do with it. The neighbors do not mind

  • MrDamage||

    "Why can't the neighbors take them to small claims court or something over the parking issue, if it's really causing them problems?"

    Mostly because the neighbors don't have a problem with the gathering. This is just the local government getting all bent out of shape because they're not being paid enough homage to satisfy their egos.

  • ||

    Apparently they haven't gotten to Romans 13:1-5 in their studies yet.

    1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
  • PantsFan||

    Christian obedience to government is for the purpose of expedient peaceful living and bringing no dishonor to the name of Christ. Christians are not obligated to follow every jot of public policy. Moreover, Christians are not supposed to follow any law that goes against the law of God.

  • ||

    I will brief you on which laws offend me later.

  • ||

    I swear, for every demanding verse in the Bible there's a fine upstanding Christian explanation of why it doesn't mean what it says.

    And I'm not violating Jesus' prohibition on swearing because I didn't swear on anything.

  • ||

    Moreover, Christians are not supposed to follow any law that goes against the law of God.

    Which law of God does the zoning ordinance violate?

    Remember who the "ruling authorities" were at the time Paul wrote his letter? Folks who would have reacted to a gathering of 50 Christians with a much more severe punishment than a fine.

  • PantsFan||

    do you mean while he was in prison for preaching his gospel?

  • ||

    And you didn't see him running to file an appeal his death sentence, did you?

  • A Serious Man||

    I believe Paul was referring to violent overthrows of the government, not filing a lawsuit.

  • ||

    Right, because Christians were in a position to overthrow the Empire in AD 50.

  • Gojira||

    I have it on good authority that racist future South Africans were going back in time to arm the early Christians with AK-47s in order to change history.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guns_of_the_South

  • Xenocles||

    I think that many of the Christians at that time would have been quite swarthy, not at all the sort of folks the AWB would want armed.

  • A Serious Man||

    I don't suppose they were, but insurmountable odds didn't stop those Jews from revolting in AD70.

    And the law of the land (ie the Constitution) gives these people the right to file a lawsuit against a law they feel is injurous to them. So they aren't rebelling.

  • petetheelder||

    Acts 25: 10-11 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

  • SIV||

    Jesus Tulpa, God put the US Constitution above all. If your local government isn't following the Constitution they are acting against God's will.

    Pastor Chuck Baldwin explains it here

  • ||

    By the same token, a civil magistrate has authority in civil matters, but his authority is limited and defined. Observe that Romans Chapter 13 clearly limits the authority of civil government by strictly defining its purpose: "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil . . . For he is the minister of God to thee for good . . . for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." Notice that civil government must not be a "terror to good works." It has no power or authority to terrorize good works or good people. God never gave it that authority. And any government that oversteps that divine boundary has no divine authority or protection.

    Sort of like no one who isn't part of a well-regulated militia has no right to keep and bear arms.

    Don't deny it. It's EXACTLY the same argument as the collective-rights crowd uses on the 2nd amendment.

  • ||

    ...militia has a right...

  • ||

    This passage supports my dad's theory that Saul of Tarsus was a Roman agent. Once he comes into the picture, Christianity gets morphed from the religion that defied the authority of the Pharisees into the religion that the empire and later criminals used to justify their power over anyone they could subjugate.

    -jcr

  • ||

    This passage supports my dad's theory that Saul of Tarsus was a Roman agent. Once he comes into the picture, Christianity gets morphed from the religion that defied the authority of the Pharisees into the religion that the empire and later criminals used to justify their power over anyone they could subjugate.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Matthew 23:

    1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you.
  • Gibreel||

    The Messiah was actually Titus Flavius, Caesar's Messiah. Read the book by Atwill.

  • iamtheeviltwin||

    Funny, I don't think they were violating any lawful laws...

    Supreme law of the land here:

    1A) ongress 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.

    Since the 14th extended those rights to the state level...I don't see how a "zoning" law against having people at their house for whatever reason doesn't tread on the 1st Amendment.

  • Adam||

    It is clear that the law in this story is unconstitutional. It is a prohibition of free exercise to confiscate property (tax) prior to peaceful assembly.

  • robc||

    Zoning laws violates the 5th and 9th amendments.

    As the primary "ruling authority" would be the constitution, it is in fact the Christians duty to support it and oppose any violations of it.

  • Gojira||

    Pantsfan:

    I'm really not reading it that way at all. Maybe it loses something in the translation, but that whole paragraph Tulpa quoted pretty much just says to obey and submit, because if someone is in charge here on earth, that means God put them in charge.

  • PantsFan||

    Paul here is referring to the authority set by God, not of mortal rulers on earth. Just because mortals on Earth may consider someone to be an “authority” and “ruler” does not mean that God considers them to be so.

  • ||

    So Paul was saying nothing in those verses. Maybe he was getting paid by the word and needed some filler, I dunno.

    Sometimes I wonder if the point of bible study is to come up with rationalizations that allow one to ignore the tough parts while still feeling like a good Christian.

  • rts||

    Having witnessed these Bible studies, I can tell you that is exactly the point.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    They're not charged with violating Romans 13, and they're not charged with hypocrisy. They're charged with violating a zoning ordinance which (assuming it applies) would only be valid if it conforms to the federal and California constitution.

    Incidentally, the people, when they adopted these constitutions, were acting as the governing authorities, whose orders the municipal governments must obey.

    Even if Christians were supposed to obey every human law, and to ignore the biblical passages about St. Peter obeying God rather than man, or the three youths disobeying the king's order and refusing to worship an idol, there's still the question of what the governing authorities - the people - have commanded through adopting constitutions which protect religious freedom.

  • robc||

    The 1st amendment is the governing authority.

    Not the city. The city is illegitimate.

  • ||

    1 Samuel - Chapter 8 tells you all you need to know about big government. nobody listened then either.

    http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=1 Samuel&c=8&t=NIV

  • Llama Face||

    "...an unjust king, as unjust, is not that genuine ordinance of God .... So we may resist the injustice of the king, and not resist the king. If, then, any cast off the nature of a king, and become habitually a tyrant... he is not from God... If the office of a tyrant... be contrary to a king's office, it is not from God, and so neither is the power from God." Samuel Rutherford, Lex Rex, 1643

    In addition, the King James translation of this passage is thought to be flawed. The original Greek version is as follows:

    "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power if not of God . . . ."

    Romans binds the human authority figures to the law of god and says the only legitimate authority is that which comes from God, not that ALL authority, no matter how oppressive and evil, is from God.

    You are a dipshit, seriously.

  • Id||

    Hey I grew up there! Not that that's relevant, just thought I'd mention it.

  • well...||

    The whole "feed the christians to the lions" persecution thing is cute spin to put on it, but it really just looks like bureaucrats being bureaucrats: "How dare those people violate obscure ordinances that WE enforce, how dare they violate OUR plans, etc etc...."

  • Danny Haszard||

    Jehovah's Witnesses apostate belief system.

    A) They are at your door to recruit you for their watchtower society corporation,they will say that *we are just here to share a message from the Bible*... this is deception right off.
    B) Their *message* creed is a false Gospel that Jesus had his second coming in 1914.The problem with this is it's not just a cute fairy tale,Jesus warned of the false prophets who would claim *..look he is here in the wilderness,or see here he is at the temple*.

    C) Their anti-blood transfusion ban against *whole blood* has killed thousands.
    D) once they recruit you they will *love bomb* you in cult fashion to also recruit your family & friends or cut them off.

    ----
    My family was spiritually and financially swindled by the apostate Watchtower society,3rd generation Jehovah's Witness Danny Haszard
    FMI
    http://www.dannyhaszard.com

  • ||

    You can rest easy. You're not going to find a whole heck of a lot of potential Witness converts hanging out here.

  • ||

    “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. . .

    Its not, its being treated as the mark in a shakedown by the local government.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I would think that the 3 person limit is overly restrictive and possibly unconstitutional. I'm guessing they could probably get away with say more than 20 for the trafffic issues mentioned (not saying they should but they probably would be backed by the courts). If they regularly have 50 people going to these meetings I would think at least one of them would have access to a commercial or public gathering place with adequete facilities and parking. The 50 people could always move and deny the city their tax dollars. It is Commiefornia so they probably need to leave the state.

  • ||

    I would say they could gather in the park, but then they'd have to deal with the people feeding ducks, geese, and bums.

  • ||

    *bangs head against wall*

    This shouldn't be an issue on people in the house.

    This is an issue of noise complaints or parking violations. If there were no noise complaints or parking issues, WTF is the cities problem!?!

    Hell, a monthly HOA meeting could be considered a regular gathering requiring a permit, but that would be just as nonsensical.

  • AlmightyJB||

    When is Obama going to do something about these kangaroos?

    http://www2.nbc4i.com/news/201.....ar-751021/

  • ||

    Yet swingers can have weekly sex parties and they dont get fined. I'm serious! .

  • scythe||

    Everyone is focusing on the wrong right. It's not freedom of speech or religion that's being violated, but freedom of association, which is just as important, and it's in the same goddamn sentence in the First Amendment.

  • NotSure||

    This is not a zoning law issue, this is simply about a broke council trying to squeeze out cash from whatever source they can find.

  • np||

    Though they're trying to play that angle (unfortunately because it undermines real 1st amendment issues), it's obviously not a freedom of speech or religion issue since it would apply to any gathering.

    I know your aversion to zoning laws- but - (I shouldn't say this here)- do you want any and all uses on any parcel in America? (go ahead start the feeding frenzy)
    This silly ordinance about gathering >3 people is the root cause and to this question I say "yes!"

    You can deal with problems in a principled manner i.e. if their activity is causing some kind of tangible disturbance or obstruction to other people's rights of the same use for their property (noise, traffic, frontage blockage, etc), rather than a one size fits all, segregated zoning laws.

    For example, in many other countries it is very common to see dual-purpose work/live places both in commercial areas and regular housing areas, especially bakeries, cafes, small markets.

  • CaptainSmartass||

    The ordinance specifically says "religious", so it is a freedom of religion issue.

  • ||

    it also says "fraternal" and "non-profit" which can be wildly interpreted.

    I can understand issues with operating a for-profit retail or service business out of your home in a residential area (where you would expect to create constant traffic issues), but a twice weekly quiet religious event with no complaints about parking from neighbors...i mean come on. This is just a cash grab by the city.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Don't forget that Congress has provided certain protections to religious land use - the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The U.S. Justice Department gives the following hypothetical example of a possible violationof RLUIPA:

    "A rabbi periodically holds prayer meetings in his home with 10 to 15 people. He is cited for zoning violations for operating a house of worship in a residential zone."

    http://www.justice.gov/crt/spe.....onpamp.php

  • CaptainSmartass||

    The ordinance itself mentions nothing about parking, just that religious activity in residential areas need a conditional use permit.

    http://library.municode.com/in.....California

    This seems like a no-brainer case. The city is completely in the wrong.

  • ||

    we're probably just assuming the city council wasn't completely braindead when they drew up the ordinance. I know that assumption could be completely off base.

  • robc||

    For about 15 years, Ive had a political/religious essay Ive been meaning to write, but never have. The title is On Being Caesar. Unfortunately, I suck at writing.

    The general idea is what do the New Testament teachings on political authority (as quoted above by Tulpa and a few other passages, such as Jesus' exhortation to pay taxes) tell a Christian if he happens to be, say, emperor of all Rome.

    There have been plenty written about what citizens of the empire are supposed to do...Tulpa went down that path, but that doesnt interest me as much as what duties that puts on the ruler, as opposed to the rulee.

    The final point being, in America, we are all Caesar.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The final point being, on the Planet of the Apes, we are all Caesar.

  • WTF||

    You SF'd the link.

  • $6M RoboTorso||

    What, no Chick Tracts?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Arguably the best part of Evangelical Christianity.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    That and the abolition of slavery.

  • Fluffy||

    The real abuse here is that these particular plaintiffs will probably win their case, but if this was me inviting people over to my house to watch the Patriots game I'd lose.

    Because the 1st Amendment is taken seriously (at least a little) by our quisling courts and the 5th Amendment is not.

    Because - oh, that's right - I'm creating a "nuisance" by, you know, existing. And driving on public roads that are paid for by tax dollars and are supposed to be open to all.

    Right. Sure.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Does the ordinance actually prohibit football-watching with friends? Are you a church, a nonprofit, or a fraternal organization? The Reformed Church of the Patriots? The Cult of the Cubs (They Will Win Again, if you have faith)? The Honorable Brotherhood of the Exalted Pigskin?

  • ||

    To state what I thought was freaking obvious - this ordinance means that I would have to get permission of the very people I am trying to force out of office to start a campaign against them. "You need a permit to have that meeting to organize your political movement. Please apply at the permit office on the 3rd Thursday of the month after 2 pm and before 1 pm. Thank you and burn in hell you ingrate."

  • ||

    are you sure you didn't mean the 5th Thursday of the month?

  • Zeb||

    There are 5 Thursdays this month.

  • ||

    Are you sure you didn`t mean the sixth thursday of every month?

  • sarcasmic||

    They have freedom to assemble or practice religion.

    They just need to go get permission, file some paperwork, pay a fee, and otherwise kiss the ass of some fuckwad bureaucrat who deserves to die in a fire simply for taking a government job.

  • ||

    I gotta love the consistency, if nothing else: no matter what weird and fucked up things government does, somebody is gonna jump on here to defend it.

  • ||

    It's simple - if any meeting of this sort that happens somewhat regularly requires a permit, then this meeting does, too. And to the bozo who questioned "how can there be freedom of religion if it costs $500/meeting?", if they get the required permit, then there will be no $500 fine per meeting.

  • ||

    Soon religion will be outlawed and after that persecution will follow.
    We have seen these kinds of movements before in history many times, not excluding the Roman colossium, and the streets of 1930/40s Germany.

    The hatred for God and his followers, is openly venomous in both parties - and it is growing. Believers cannot be allowed to exist and remind sinners that what they do is wrong.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Believers cannot be allowed to exist and remind sinners that what they do is wrong."

    Close, but not quite.
    Man can't serve two masters. If man serves God, he cannot serve The State.
    Outlaw service to God, and what's left is the religion of The State: statism.

  • ||

    Bullshit, Don. I'm one of the biggest foes of organized religion here, yet I completely support the right of people to assemble without hassle from the state. Freedom of religion is ultimately the freedom of thought.

    RE, your Christian Persecution Complex(tm)...LOL

  • ||

    C'mon, people. Just because you have to get the State's permission to do something doesn't mean you aren't free to do it.

    There's two potential problems with this case. First, is there an overt discrimination against religion? Probably not, because the ordinance lists other non-profits.

    Second, is it being applied so as to discriminate against religion? Do the authorities pursue non-religious gatherings with the same vigor that they do religious gatherings?

    As to that, who the fuck knows?

  • ||

    This should be an embarrassment to the city and state. Of course, no fines would have been levied against them had they been Muslims having group prayer.
    And the hatred for God is NOT equal in both parties, Don L - that's the specialty of the Dems.

  • ||

    Oh, rly, Caterpillar? Linky?????

  • ||

    Nope, didn't think so.

  • ||

    A weekly Scrabble game is a "regular gathering of more than three people."

    Fascists!

  • ||

    How does any of this have anything to do with religion? 50 people, with presumably 25-40 cars, parking on a residential street twice a week sounds like a significant annoyance to me, whether they are reading the bible or baking cookies. The statue apparently prohibits both.

  • Platitdude||

    ACLU, hello.

  • ||

    Heck, here in New York City the Muslims block off whole streets for their prayers and there are parts of the city that the police will not enter because they are afraid. And no one is doing a thing about it.

  • Russ 2000||

    50 people may be a nuisance.

    But the law says THREE PEOPLE.

    Jesus H Christ, most FAMILIES would be in violation of that!

  • Platitdude||

    Heil San Juan Capistrano!

  • ||

    Can you imagine the bloody screams of rage if the city fined the Muslims for the same thing.

  • ||

    Happy Thursday, Trollster.

  • ||

    Let's forget about the freedom thingy fer a minute. Forget about the code violations.

    Suburban neighborhood. One home is using a dozen to two dozen parking spaces or more - where parking is at a premium. Increased Traffic. Horns, car doors and trunks slamming shut. Lots of noise, singing and even shouting. Meetings last until midnight or even later, once, twice, even three times or more per a week. Every week. month after month after month.

    How many of you would've called the cops, if you'd been their neighbors?

    As Christians, they're called to be wise and to love their neighbors. From the few facts in the story, an a bit of thought, you can determine that they aren't being wise, nor do they give a flying crap about their neighbors.They've not only become a nuisance, they're now endangering the health and general well-being of their neighbors and are interferning with their neighnor's right to full use of their own property.

    iow, their fists are now meeting the noses of their neighbor's faces.

    The law may have this one right...this time.

  • ||

    Suburban neighborhood where people could presumably have private parking (driveways, garages) if they so chose. Public (on-street) parking is public parking. Fail.

  • ||

    They've got fifty people attending this 'bible study' two or three times a week.

    That's a church. Now, if they're concerned about submitting to political authority, as required by their bible, they need to incorporate under a 501(c)3 and become a church. Is the neighborhood zoned to allow them to be a church?

    I'm pointing at the bible study's hypocrisy, here. I'm also pointing out that they are interfering with other resident's free use of their own properties.

    If we're not going to enforce zoning laws, fine and dandy. I agree with you. Having chickens or pigs and small business and manufacturing out of your home while allowing and your neighbors to do the same is then good to go.

    But, if we're going to have laws restricting those ativities in a suburban neighborhood, those laws ned to be enforced the same for one kind of activity as well as the other, religious or not.

  • ||

    Let's forget about the freedom thingy fer a minute.

    No, let's not, since that's the point of the whole libertarianism thing. Freedom is not negotiable, period.

  • ||

    Then change the local zoning laws in order to allow churches to be run abd operated out of a suburan home. in themeantime, screaming about first amendment abuse when the neighbors aren't allowed to own chickens or operate a business or a manufacturing facility in their bnasement or garages is hypocrisy.

    Level the playing field. Make them all free...or restrict all of them alike. Until you do one or the other, you're practicing political favoritism, not freedom.

  • Joe M||

    No no, that'is nonsense, because the city is saying it's just honky dory to keep at it, as long as the city gets paid. If the HOA has a problem with it, they should get involved. The city doesn't give a damn about anything except the money. Plus, you may have conveniently missed this line from the article:

    Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.
  • ||

    How many of you would've called the cops, if you'd been their neighbors?

    Interesting question, but not so interesting as the question of how many of this group's actual neighbors called the cops. The answer to which is apparently zero.

  • ||

    Interesting that no one seems to have read the family pdf. The timeline shows that they were cited after meetings were moved from a "clubhouse" to the house while the clubhouse was being renovated. Given that this is the case, I am much less sympathetic. Given that the group is organized enough to have a regular meeting place (which is presumably zoned, permitted, etc), being required to have a temporary permit in such a situation does not seem unreasonable, at least given the fact that zoning exists, etc. This is clearly an organized, rather than informal, group, and as such would be pretty comparable to a "fraternal oganization". Presumably if the local VFW starting hosting events at a member's house under similar circumstances they would also be required to get a permit.

    As long as the city was not denying them a permit in a way inconsistent with other activites the freedom of religon claim is pretty much moot. And as long as the permit fee itself was reasonable (not the fines, but the actual permit), then I don't think a freedom of assembly claim holds water either. It may be stupid and petty, but then my local borough sends me a $10 bill every year for a "per-capita" tax, which has to be one of the stupidest, petty taxes I've ever dealt with.

  • sarcasmic||

    Free people do not need to ask permission and pay a fee to gather in a peaceful group.

    This whole permit business goes completely against the concept of liberty.

  • LilDebbie||

    and we're saying it's bullshit that the "clubhouse" had to get a permit in the first place.

    hell, when we were protesting immediately outside the local "church" or scientology, we only needed a permit if we wanted to use amplified sound (for rickrolls and the like), and it didn't cost us a dime. and i assure you, we had well over 50 people and were deliberately being a nuisance.

    the simple truth here is that san juan capistrano's zoning laws violate the right to peaceably assemble. end. of. story.

  • ATLien||

    S you believe that freedom literally isn't free, and we need to pony up for liberty?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Be a shame if you lost your freedom of religion...

  • Menace to society||

    I regularly have my family over for Sunday dinner. And they park up and down the street. And we even say prayers before we eat.

  • Joe M||

    I hold biweekly gatherings to play RPGs with friends and family. I guess that would be illegal without a permit too?

  • sarcasmic||

    Shhhhhhhh!

    Tell that to the wrong person and the people you call when someone is shaking you down for money will come shake you down for money.

  • Tamar||

    I think the city's limit to three people being a public meeting is ridiculous. Most people have a larger number of people gathering at family thankgiving dinners. However as a conservative, Bible believing Christian and I think this group are being belligerent and unreasonable.
    50 people stuffing themselves into a house twice a week regardless of the purpose does tax the parking and other utilities of their neighbors.
    When our house church reached a consistent attendance of over 20 people per week, we decided we needed to either split the group in half or look for a small place to rent once a week. We decided on the latter and haven't looked back.
    The fact is this very large group could easily split themselves into two groups and spread themselves out to be less of a burden but instead they get a lawyer and sue.
    These people are making Christ's name a stench among their neighbors and that is very wrong.

  • ATLien||

    RTFA idiot.

  • ||

    The First Amendment includes, "... Congress shall make no law... abridging...the right of the people peaceably to assemble."

  • Georg Felis||

    The Bible, as re-written by California:

    “Wherever three or more of you are gathered in My Name, there also shall also be Taxes, Permits, and Regulations.”
    “Render under Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God, whatever tiny fraction is left over.”
    “Thou Shalt Covet they neighbors house, and his 401K, and his retirement plan, and everything that is thy neighbors, for such is the Kingdom of Man.”
    “But now if you have a purse left after taxation, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, good, there’s no reason for you to possess weapons.”

  • hodge||

    This is by no means a freedom of religion issue as the article and many commenting are making it out to be. This is a freedom of assembly issue. And the city of San Juan Capistrano's restriction on this is way over the top.

    I get that government needs to create ordinances for public gatherings to protect firelanes and personal property and other things, but three or more people? C'mon. That's ridiculous.

  • ||

    According to a local TV news report, in order to obtain a Conditional Use Permit, they would have to conduct a traffic and environmental impact study and make their house "accessible" to wheelchairs, not to mention the cost of the conditional use permit itself.

    The City of San Juan Capistrano has made itself an international laughingstock - read the comments in the Daily Mail website:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news

  • Weygand||

    Well that settles it for me. This really is little more than a shakedown.
    Criminy...my Microarmor group meets in the condo complex clubhouse once a month. And let me tell you that if some pencil-necked geek bureaudork came to bust up my 6mm panzer division with my whole crew here, let me tell you we would open a can of quizzical looks on his ass.

  • Weygand||

    What am I saying...at least 2 of us wear our 3 Coyote Ts so coming face to face with panzer commanders in 3 C Ts would probably make him wee wee before he even step foot in the Wulfschanze

  • ||

    But...but...we have to stop the threat of theocracy in its tracks. Nip it in the bud. Strangle it in the womb. I mean crib. Or else they'll rise to threaten all of our civil liberties. So we need to take away their civil liberties and sort of tighten up on those of everyone else. Just for a while. So we can buy a little time to shut down all of their nefarious operations. If we allow freedom in this these little terrorists will already have won.

  • ||

    Jesus was an enemy of the State!

  • Some Guy||

    Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.

    If I was the reporter interviewing the city spokesman who said this, I would have given him two chances to clarify this statement before beating him to death with my smartphone.

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