Do you host a regular get-together with friends to watch your favorite college sports team? (Go Jackets!) What about a ladies dessert pot-luck or a monthly poker night with a small group of co-workers? If you are in the habit of such gatherings, you may want to hear how your rights to host friends at your house are under fire from out of control government interference.
In San Diego County, California, Pastor David Jones, is in the midst of a throw-down with the County who has demanded that the Jones family obtain a permit to host a small weekly Bible study in their home. The County says that visitors driving to the meetings are affecting traffic in the neighborhood. Although the Jones’ guests sometimes spill over into the cul-de-sac, it does not seem to be the neighbors that have a problem with the weekly Bible study or alleged traffic obstacles. Jones says he has spoken with his neighbors and that they don’t have a problem with his meetings. San Diego’s 10News reported this to be the case after interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Jones’ neighbors.
According to San Diego News, a County official asked the couple: ‘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 official then notified the couple that their gathering violated county regulations. According to Jones’ Attorney, Dean Broyles, the couple received a written warning several days later for their “unlawful use of land” demanding that they “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit.” These permits can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
But this is clearly just some local permit dispute, right? Well, you may want to say only silent prayers that the opposing team miss that buzzer-beater (a moment of silence for Lebron James please). Maintaining your poker face is not the only reason to resist a “praise the Lord” outburst when just the right card appears on the board. Oh, and it would probably be wise to avoid a spoken blessing for the food altogether. Failure to do so could mean your dinner party is in danger of being considered a religious gathering, which means you could need to get a costly permit. Sound outrageous?
Apparently in San Diego County your First Amendment right to freely exercise your religion may not go so far as hosting a small gathering in your home. The implications of such a ruling would be far-reaching but, fortunately, the Jones family is ready to fight. The pastor and his wife intend to dispute the county’s orders this week and will consider a lawsuit in federal court if San Diego County refuses to allow the couple to continue gathering in their home without a permit.
As Mrs. Jones pointed out, “There are thousands and thousands of bible studies that are held all across the country. What we’re interested in is setting a precedent here — before it goes any further — and that we have it settled for the future.”
Exactly. Apparently a San Diego home = no place for a Bible study. What’s next?