October 5, 2011

Legal proceedings against a couple who host a Bible study group in their home.

126 comments:

PETER V. BELLA said...

Your home is no longer your castle. It would have been worse if they had wine tastings. They would have been arrested and fined for not having a liquor license.

MarkG said...

Yabut I read these bible studies have about 50 participants. That's a church.

bagoh20 said...

WWJD?

Scott M said...

Which bible? This is an important distinction.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I abhor, hate and detest HOA's. A guy at work was fined $100 for leaving a 2 x 4 in his driveway for a couple of hours. Another person got a $50 fine for hanging a beach towel on the fence to dry. Small minds with too much power.

traditionalguy said...

This is a crisis for the Mission town founded by Saint Junipero Serra in the 1770s.

And all of those cars drive into the neighborhood too. If they just rode donkeys maybe in it would not be so bad.

But Zoning to restrict places of regular worship from neighborhoods has always been done.

But if this is a social invitation only party, what's got them upset at City Hall?

Studied Bibles are always seen as trouble makers.

Scott M said...

We live in an unincorporated subdivision, so the HOA is a necessity. There's no municipality to handle plowing the streets, road repair, common ground maintenance, etc.

A necessary evil, but at least the meetings are open, informal, and actually do what they decide on doing.

dbp said...

I am not a lawyer, but isn't there some principle related to established practices? So if something has been done for a long time and there are no new laws enacted, then there is a high standard required in order to start enforcement?

These people have been doing these bible study gatherings for 17 years.

Fred4Pres said...

Insanity.

Local officials are just tyrants.

I could see if there were traffic impacts (something objective to complain about), but of course, none in this case.

Fred4Pres said...

There are times groups need to be regluated...if they are impacting people outside the group. So what exactly is this group doing that warrants this intrusion.

It is not like they are raising cows and drinking raw milk are they?

edutcher said...

Isn't there an Amendment or something that talks about "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"?

Isn't that like a real important law or something?

Fred4Pres said...

edutcher. Yeah. There is. Give me a second to remember it...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There are times groups need to be regluated...if they are impacting people outside the group. So what exactly is this group doing that warrants this intrusion.

As pointed out, the size of the gathering for bible reading, is likely the problem.

In a residential area, either by local ordinance or by the HOA, there are rules to protect the privacy and residential lifestyle of the OTHER people.

Parking large RV's year round that block the street and the view. (If I wanted to live in an RV park or an RV dealership, I wouldn't have bought a house on THIS street).

So many cars that also block the street and traffic on the residential streets. If they are routinely having 50 or more people show up, this is a big inconvenience and annoyance.

Having a few people over to your home once in a while or even a large party on occasion is not usually a problem. Large hordes of people weekly...is a problem.

Them's the rules. And I bet these people knew the rules when they moved in.

No sympathy for people who are creating trouble and inconvenience for others and THEN using their religion as a club to get their way.

If they want to have a church or a mass religious experience weekly.....rent a hall.

Robert Cook said...

To quote (the horrible) PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE:

"Stupid, stupid, STUPID!"

I'm guessing this city ordinance will be handily dismissed as violations of freedom of religion and freedom of assembly, as well as the privacy rights that have been determined to exist in the bill of rights.

It was probably passed to prohibit the potential disruption of non-profit organizations or "churches" setting up shop in residential areas. However, if it is legal to invite friends to one's home for dinner or cocktail parties or for other social events, there is no reason one cannot have a discussion among one's friends on questions pertaining to religion in general or the Bible in particular.

On the other hand, we don't know, (do we?) how large and how frequent these gatherings have been. Perhaps the "home Bible study" angle is what the media has chosen to emphasize, where the issue may actually be an excess of traffic and parked cars in a quiet neighborhood. Even so, it seems then the city ordinance to cite would have to be something to do with disturbing the peace or obstructing the roadways or creating an eyesore in the neighborhood, etc.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Isn't there an Amendment or something that talks about "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"?

Isn't that like a real important law or something?


OK....say I'm a follower of Mithras and live next to you. You won't mind if I and 50 other people exercise our religion and dig a big pit in my front yard to ritually sacrifice a live bull, will you?

After all it is MY religion and my right to exercise it. Sorry that it is loud and stinky. After all the bull doesn't appreciate being killed and all that fresh and dried blood is sort of smelly, not to mention the bullcrap everywhere.

What? You would prefer that I exercise my religion and sacrifice the bull elsewhere and leave your nice residential neighborhood in peace!?!

Unconstitutional!! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

MadisonMan said...

It does seem like it's more than a Bible Study group, which to me connotes at most a half-dozen people. The picture shows scads of people -- all descending weekly on a house in a neighborhood? After 10+ years, the welcome mat would be pretty thin if I were a neighbor.

TWM said...

Fifty people is a lot of activity on a regular basis. The parking alone - on the street I assume - would be enough to make me complain.

MarkG is correct - that's not a small study group but a home-based church.

As to HOAs in general. Don't move into a neighborhood that has one if you aren't willing to do what they say.

Scott M said...

After 10+ years, the welcome mat would be pretty thin if I were a neighbor.

It would have reached a boiling point within a year, if it really bothered a neighbor. Two possibilities; 1) Something accidental happened, ie something like landscaping damaged, that broke the camels back, or 2) new neighbor still within his first year and has reached a boiling point.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)
Unconstitutional!! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed


Nerd(ette)!

I see both sides here…SURE you have a right to worship, but I have a right to not have 12-20 cars on my street 1 or twice a week…A Super Bowl Party is one thing, but a weekly gathering of 50 people to watch sports, serve alcohol, and party is another…a few friends reading the Bible is OK, but a weekly gathering is another…sorry.

Scott M said...

but a weekly gathering is another…sorry.

HOWARD JOHNSON IS RIGHT!!!

Sixty Grit said...

Should have been studying the Koran - no problem, move along.

DaveW said...

It's an appalling story, but like others in the thread I think it's misleading.

In my experience a bible study usually involves a half dozen people sitting around drinking coffee and discussing various passages for an hour or so.

50 people? At a single family home? Where are they all going to park? Even if the car pooled it would still be over 10 cars.

Kirk Parker said...

Scott M.,

Why doesn't your county handle all that?

Shanna said...

OK....say I'm a follower of Mithras and live next to you. You won't mind if I and 50 other people exercise our religion and dig a big pit in my front yard to ritually sacrifice a live bull, will you?

Then you would probably be charged with sacrificing a bull in the wrong zone or something, not having a church. The problem is what they charged them with was not “too many cars/noise violations”. Is there a limit on how many people are allowed to be invited to ones house at any time? Is there a limit on how often that can happen? I mean, I’d like to see them call the cops on a wake.

It does seem like it's more than a Bible Study group, which to me connotes at most a half-dozen people.

I think I saw 50 listed as the number and was wondering if they counted kids. If it’s just families, it could be as few as 12 cars. I don't remember having 50 people at a bible study, but counting kids you could easily reach 30 when I was a kid.

How annoying that is to your neighborhood probably depends on how much space there is and how close they live to the neighbors.

Scott M said...

Why doesn't your county handle all that?

Because the entire subdivision is privately owned. Roads, grounds, everything. County does cover the area with police and fire, but that's about it.

Thankfully, we do have municipal water as the plant is only a few miles away. I grew up with a friend, smack-dab in the middle of south Chicago, who's entire block was unincorporated Cook County. They all had well water and there was a ridiculous lime level in it. I don't think they owned anything white and their ice tasted awful.

Saint Croix said...

As pointed out, the size of the gathering for bible reading, is likely the problem.

Yeah, cause it's not like people are ever
punished for Christianity
or anything like that.

The city, by the way, has declared that if you have more than 3 Bible readers gathered together, that is a church.

Freeman Hunt said...

How are the rest of you estimating the number of people/cars?

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)
The city, by the way, has declared that if you have more than 3 Bible readers gathered together, that is a church
Isn’t that pretty much how the Christ fellow defines a “church?”

ScottM I see you are a John Galt, exploiting the Masses and walling yourself off from them! One day, tvarishe…the axe WILL fall!

MadisonMan said...

I think I saw 50 listed as the number and was wondering if they counted kids. If it’s just families, it could be as few as 12 cars.

This is California. 50 people coming means at least 40 cars. Maybe 50. :)

Maybe they can borrow vans from Waukesha county, however, to reduce the environmental impact.

Freeman Hunt said...

Found an article saying, "up to 50." That doesn't indicate the number of cars which would, I think, be the real issue.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

How are the rest of you estimating the number of people/cars?

From articles written about the case:

"Stephanie Fromm hosts a Bible study on Wednesdays that draws about 20 people, while Chuck Fromm's Sunday-morning gathering draws as many as 50"

So it isn't just once a week that the neighborhood is inundated with people. Wednesdays AND Sunday.

"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."

This is the law. They knew it and they broke it.

Shanna said...

The city, by the way, has declared that if you have more than 3 Bible readers gathered together, that is a church.

Well, 'where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.'–Matt. 18:20. God’s just not zoned for neighborhoods…

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The Bible Study group is on Wednesday and "Chuck holds a service on Sunday"

It is a church and the zoning doesn't allow it in that area.

Period.

Freeman Hunt said...

This gives more information about the property:

http://caivn.org/article/2011/10/04/orange-county-couple-fined-bible-studies-violating-zoning-rules

Given that, I would be surprised if these Bible studies caused real parking problems, assuming that a good number of the participants can park on the Fromme property.

Scott M said...

God’s just not zoned for neighborhoods…

He's got to be. Otherwise, how will He get all of those palaces situated?

Freeman Hunt said...

DBQ, thanks.

If he's holding church services on Sunday morning, he needs to do it somewhere else.

Being considerate should be part of being a Christian.

Freeman Hunt said...

The 20 person Bible study shouldn't be an issue. They need to separate the two events in discussions about the issue.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

If he's holding church services on Sunday morning, he needs to do it somewhere else

The reason for this type of Zoning isn't to keep people from their religion. It is to keep people from establishing churches and other types of organizations in residential areas. Organizations that can grow and get out of hand.

They may be holding services for 50 people today, but what about in the future when they become more "popular" and the attendance grows to 100....200....300 people.

The zoning is to protect the OTHER people who also live in the area.

If he wants to have a church...RENT A HALL.

Chuck66 said...

As much as I'd like to be outraged, I have to say that if they do draw close to 50 people weekly (or twice a week), that isn't like any Bible study I am familiar with. Perhaps they need to rent a room somewhere. A community center. A church. Meet in a bank basement.

And most Christian traditions would say not to be confrontational to your neighbors, but be respectful.

Shanna said...

It is a church

I do think the Sunday morning gatherings might be the issue. Otherwise, I don't know how far you can go regulating when people have people over to their house...

But then comes another issue, if you can't afford a building, are you not legally allowed to have church? Doesn't that seem to prohibit the free exercise of religion quite a bit?

PatCA said...

The idea that you need an environmental report and wheelchair access, etc., is just....insane!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

if you can't afford a building, are you not legally allowed to have church? Doesn't that seem to prohibit the free exercise of religion quite a bit?

No one is preventing him from exercising his religion. He just can't do it in THAT location.

Are you saying if you don't have cash you can't exercise your religion? That somehow you are being prohibited?

If his followers are truly interested in his teachings and want to participate in his religion.....they can do what every other religion in the world does---->Tithe. Fork over some money.

If 50 people all ponied up $25 a month or held fund raisers, they would soon be able to rent a location instead of inflicting themselves on a residential area ....illegally.

If his followers don't want to financially support his church.....too bad then.

DADvocate said...

Have 50 friends over to drink beer, no proglem.

PeachTreeStreet said...

If they were having 50 people over every week to watch football or participate in an orgy, this "law" would not apply to them. It's the Bible part that has the mob up in arms.

Fred4Pres said...

Dust Bunny Queen, I knew about this case before Ann posted it. The neighbors said there have been NO parking issues. Apparently the area is fairly rural with big yards and these folks have adequate parking. And remember, this has been going on for 17 years.

One neighbor complained, probably because he or she is a crank.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The idea that you need an environmental report and wheelchair access, etc., is just....insane!

That is a completely separate issue that has nothing to do with the zoning issue in a residential neighborhood.

And I agree it IS insane. But, this is California. Home of the liberal loons who have created all of these stupid restrictive laws.

You think establishing a church in California is hard? Try owning a restaurant.

I have zero sympathy for these people. They are breaking the laws. Everyone else has to abide by the laws. Tough shit.

Sixty Grit said...

In California I would estimate 60 cars for 50 people - several of them would walk the block back home then return driving their other, hotter car.

WV: demeth - demeth made them do it.

Fred4Pres said...

Dust Bunny Queen, legitimate zoning and street parkign rules are one thing. I am not disputing that. But this case is not that, it is about over reach. Seriously, if he had 50 people over to watch football it would not be an issue.

You need to look at the facts.

Chuck66 said...

"Have 50 friends over to drink beer, no proglem."

But have weekly or semi-weekly beer parties and your house may be tagged as a problem property.

Same with garage sales. Some people have weekly garage sales. Basically they operate an unlicensed thrift store in their garage and driveway. Cities have had to deal with that.

There was a case this year in southern Minnesota where a guy operated his produce stand in his front yard all summer long. The city said that is a business operating in a residential neighborhood.

Chuck66 said...

Fred4, thanks. I was not aware of the situation. I was picturing a more densely populated neighborhood with cars circling the block trying to find a place to park.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Seriously, if he had 50 people over to watch football it would not be an issue.

You need to look at the facts.


I am looking at the facts. The zoning ordinance prohibits the establishment of churches and other types of organizations in residential areas.

That is the law. That is a fact.

If they want to change the zoning ordinance....go for it. However, it is what it is now.

And if you lived in my neighborhood and had 50 people every weekend over to your house for WHATEVER reason, not just once in a while....but EVERY weekend....it would be an issue.

Fred4Pres said...

The Fromms say the non-denominational meetings are well-suited to their home, located on a sizable acreage similar to surrounding homes, and they say they have been careful to maintain low noise levels both inside the house and on the patio. They say visitors who attended the meetings never had trouble finding a place to park on the property, which is large enough to accommodate a corral, barn, and pool.

Link

The City Attorney is over reaching. This is not a legitimate zoning case.

Pastafarian said...

Freeman Hunt's link indicates that these people have a 6-acre lot.

6 acres. If it's square, that would be 170 yards on a side. I really doubt that parking is a problem.

If it is, they could have these 30 or so cars park right up on their 6 acres, not on the street.

I'm calling bullshit on this. This is none of the neighbors' business. They probably just feel left-out, or freaked out by how devout their neighbors are.

TWM said...

"Dust Bunny Queen, legitimate zoning and street parkign rules are one thing. I am not disputing that. But this case is not that, it is about over reach. Seriously, if he had 50 people over to watch football it would not be an issue.

You need to look at the facts."

If you were my neighbor and had 50 people over regularly I would have an issue with it - and I love football. If for no other reason than it's a royal pain to have, what, 10 to 20 or 25 cars parked on a street over and over.

Fred4Pres said...

This is bullshit and the zoning law is being abused, but the City.

Dust Bunny Queen, with all due respect, you don't know what is going on here. They are parking on the property for the group, not in the street. And its rural.

These cases are always very fact specific. It is the role of local goverments when enforcing zoning not to over react.

Pastafarian said...

TWM, what if I was your next door neighbor, but I had a lot 200 yards wide so the beginning of your yard was a good 75 yards from my house; and all of the visitors parked in a lot on my property?

Would you still have a problem with my 50-person gatherings?

Fred4Pres said...

TMW, if people are parking on the property and not being loud, I am not impacting the quiet enjoyment of your property. They are not parking on the street, so you and Dust Bunny Queen need to stop jumping to conclusions. This case is distinguishable from what you are imagining.

Kirk Parker said...

Scott M.,

Ah.

You really should have lead with "We live in an privately-owned subdivision, so the HOA is a necessity", as that's really the relevant point.

Given the many scare stories, of ancient origin, about HOA abuses, it would be interesting to have you weigh in on how you ended up in such a location. In my case, we (completely naive about such issues) bought a home in an older subdivision with nary an HOA in sight, but I could easily see our younger selves having stumbled into an HOA situation w/o really knowing what we were getting into.

MadisonMan said...

So are they parking on the property? It seems so, I think, in which case the street-parking issue is negligible, although traffic (and dust) might be an issue.

Still, if they are turning their house into a church, and it seems like they are on their way, and this is a residentially zoned area, follow the law.

Pastafarian said...

Really, 50 people isn't that big of a gathering. I've had 25 people at my house at one time, and my yard's maybe one acre in a more dense residential area.

And we weren't studying bibles. People would regain consciousness the next morning in the shrubbery.

alan markus said...

Wonder what the zoning regs are in Venice, California. 22 kids, music teacher, lots of parents, maybe a few political operatives, etc.
A recent Sunday...a neighbor's house...Venice, California

Saint Croix said...

That is the law. That is a fact.

Yeah, so is free exercise.

Fred4Pres said...

Pastafarian, what do you expect. I am sure you were serving those guests heaping quantities of "pasta"* and the spike in blood gluclose knocked them all out.

* you can define pasta anyway you like!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They are parking on the property for the group, not in the street. And its rural.

So what? The zoning prohibits the organization from operating in a residential area.

PERIOD.

These cases are always very fact specific. It is the role of local goverments when enforcing zoning not to over react.

It is the role of local government to enforce the zoning laws equally, equitiably and not subject to anything OTHER than the letter of the law.

However.....let's put aside the religious freedom aspect and go all IRS on their asses.

*Are they a church and subject to non profit tax treatment?

*Have they filed this status with the IRS and the State?

*Do they get money, tithes or contributions from their parishioners? How much? What do they use it for?

*If so, what tax treatment are they declaring. Gifts? Where are the gift tax returns? Not reporting at all? Nice source of under the table cash flow.

*How much of these people's cash flow is derived from the illegal operation as a church?

*Does their homeowner's insurance cover them for liability for these regular and large gatherings? I bet their insurance company has no idea.

I suspect that a good portion of the 'outrage' is not just religious but also financial. Nice gig.

That's just a start.

Let's REALLY look at the facts, why don't we?

Saint Croix said...

It is idiotic for atheists to think they can fine people for reading a Bible and that's a good idea. You will positively encourage people to read the Bible. And to refuse to pay your fines. And then you have to jail people for reading a Bible. And then you got religious people up in arms. And more people are reading the Bible. And refusing to pay your fines. And before you know it, you atheists are up to your ass in a religious-inspired revolution. You think I'm kidding? Fine me, see what happens. You'll have to jail me, cause I ain't paying that shit.

But go ahead, DBQ, and run for small-minded bureaucrat. You've got it all figured out.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It is idiotic for atheists to think they can fine people for reading a Bible and that's a good idea.

No one is stopping them from reading the bible or any other FREE exercise of religion.

The laws apply to EVERYONE and apply equally. This zoning ordinance is not prohibiting them from reading the bible or exercising their religion.

They just can't turn their house into a church in a residential area. NO one ELSE can turn their home into a church either.

They are being singled out because they are breaking the law.

Don't like the ordinance. Change it.

Pastafarian said...

Jesus, Saint Croix. Calm down. I'm an atheist, and I'm on your side.

DBQ, I don't understand your zoning argument. Sure, it's the law; and the law is stupid.

Suppose the local law forbids building a church in that area. Well, this isn't a church, it's a house. It's only a church if the owner says it is. Right?

We have a sheet-metal building in this town that was once a hardware store, and now it's a church. It wasn't a church until they put the sign out front and the cross on top.

So this house appears, from the outside, to be a house, as it always has. A couple of times a week, the owners have about 25 cars parked in a lot on their (quite large) property, and the nearest neighbor's house is probably 100 yards from this parking lot.

What's the problem? How does this hurt these neighbors? What business is it of theirs what's going on inside that house?

Whether they're passing a collection plate and doing their taxes properly is an entirely different issue; between these people and the IRS. Again, no business of the neighbors.

Pastafarian said...

How many people are allowed to study the bible in one house, at one time, before it becomes a church?

5? 10?

If I have 10 people over to play chess, is that illegal too, because it's then a chess club?

Saint Croix said...

Don't like the ordinance. Change it.

Yeah, yeah. I have to amend the law. Liberals, on the other hand, are like this:

"Don't like the free exercise clause? Lie about it. Ignore it. Pretend it isn't there. All you need is five votes."

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

Again, no business of the neighbors.

Of course it is their business.

It affects their property values. Now and probably even more so in the future.

There are 50 people today. Tomorrow there may be 100...200....300. Even Tammy Fae and Jim Baker started small.

If you want to have a church... no one is stopping you. Follow the laws and put it in an area zoned for that.

If I have 10 people over to play chess, is that illegal too, because it's then a chess club?

No, because the zoning regulations are quite clear on what type of organizations are prohibited in residential areas.

The law is the law. If you don't like it.....get it changed.

@ St Croix

Give up on the atheist bullcrap. You have no idea what my religion is and even so that is immaterial to this discussion about zoning laws.

traditionalguy said...

Why do I think that this is like the building of Condos in East Jerusalem by the Jews? It is contested territory.

I bet the local mission church had never drawn 50 people at a time to a Bible study, and they were there first before the rude gringos moved in.


Maybe the best approach is to limit the prayers made so that atheists are more comfortable.

The next thing you know a Bishop from Kenya could come and start blocking the witchcraft powers at Halloween. Where's the fun in that?

Fred4Pres said...

Don't like the ordinance. Change it.

The ordinance came to them, they did not come to the ordinance. And they are challenging it. That is what individuals do when there is a misguided stupid law that conflicts with fundamental rights.

I hate nanny officials interfering with my life and the lives of fellow citizens. If this group spilled out of the yard into the streets and impacted the neighbors, then I would support what the city is doing. But that is not the case. I also think the motivating driving the City Attorney is religion not zoning. I support them fighting this one. Just like I support people fighting in Wisconsin over drinking milk from their own cows.

Freedom!

Saint Croix said...

Jesus, Saint Croix. Calm down. I'm an atheist, and I'm on your side.

I had an atheist one time suggest that I watch Into Great Silence which he thought was a deeply spiritual movie about these monks.

Bored the crap out of me!

So I don't know if he was a spiritually advanced atheist or what.

I like the Christians and I want to be one of them but I'm afraid I kinda suck at it. On the other hand, I don't even want to think about what kind of animal I would be without it.

Fred4Pres said...

Dust Bunny Queen, so prior restraint is okay over what might happen in the future? Neighbors also have a right to bring their own action if they disagree with what a neighbor is doing. In fact the neighbors have not complained, except for one.

Sometimes that is better than expecting the "government" to carry that water for you, especially on a case like this.

I am guessing the city is starting to regret it acted the way it did.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The ordinance came to them, they did not come to the ordinance.

Are you stating that the ordinance was enacted specifically to target these people?

Did this ordinance exist before they began using their residential property as a church? Or did the city enact the ordinance later as a punitive act against this specific group? Or did the ordinance expand to cover them in an expansion of city boundaries?

Do you have a time line for this?

You are so hot to trot about facts? Let's have some.

Scott M said...

but I could easily see our younger selves having stumbled into an HOA situation w/o really knowing what we were getting into.

It was our first house, but I was 33 at the time, so not nearly as young as my folks were when they bought their first. I made it a point to read through the bylaws and didn't see anything out of the ordinary or that I wouldn't want my neighbors to abide by...such mundane things as making sure garbage cans are taken back from the street by the day after collection, etc etc. Common sense stuff and each plat is represented by someone living within that area.

It's how democracy looks and, frankly, about as large a community as it COULD work in.

traditionalguy said...

Many Christians are taught to " first pray for governors and all who are in authority" over them.

The reason is that the Gospel is best able to be spread when teaching and preaching is not restrained by hostile governments.

This is not the death penalty for being a Christian or a Jew that Islamics love so much, but it is like a death penalty for the action of teaching and preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in San Luis Obispo, California.

The restraint on using public places for preaching the Gospel of another Kingdom is already self righteously imposed by our all powerful philosopher kings on the SCOTUS, and now restraints on teaching and preaching on private property are going in to complete the brave new world's rules.

Pogo said...

IANAL, but if section 9-3.301 of the Capistrano Municipal Code doesn't clearly define a "church" or demonstrate they have an "organization", I'll bet they're gonna have trouble enforcing this one.

Otherwise it's just having 30-50 friends over to your rural six acre lot, twice a week.

Seems like a waste of city time and money.

Levi Starks said...

When I first heard this story a week or so ago, I thought well of course, they should stop having Bible studies, and start having "Constitution Studies"

Then lets see if we can define what is or isn't an appropriate place to study the document from which we
take all other right.

Then we will move on from there.

Scott M said...

Many Christians are taught to " first pray for governors and all who are in authority" over them.

I still do this every night right after thanking God that my wife puts up with me. Probably with His help.

Shanna said...

Are you saying if you don't have cash you can't exercise your religion? That somehow you are being prohibited?

No, I’m asking what happens when you have a twenty person group (and let’s say for the sake of argument they take in no money at all so aren’t a legal church) and can’t afford a location. If you have a giant house, with a freaking barn and plenty of parking, why can’t you have twenty people over on Sunday and talk about god? I’m saying what happens if you legitimately can’t afford a hall.

If they were having 50 people over every week to watch football or participate in an orgy, this "law" would not apply to them.

Exactly. You shouldn’t have special rule on how many people can come over based on what you’re doing. If there is plenty of room, as in this case (seriously, 6 acres? They aren’t hurting the neighbors!), why can’t you have a bible study at the house?

The zoning ordinance prohibits the establishment of churches and other types of organizations in residential areas.

How many people coming over talking about god makes it a “church”? 3 is a bad answer and I would say 20 is pretty middling.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

and now restraints on teaching and preaching on private property are going in to complete the brave new world's rules.

There is no restraint against teaching or preaching.

There is a restraint against establishing a Physical Church in a residential area. There are lots of restraints on what can be done in residential zoned properties.

Just like there is a restraint from building an auto shop, a restaurant, a Wal Mart, a fish processing plant, a Masonic Lodge, a Red Cross Administrative building and lots of other restrictions in RESIDENTIAL zoned properties.

Zoning laws are to protect the property rights of everyone. Not just YOU....EVERYONE.

You aren't a martyr. Don't feel so special.

rcommal said...

Interesting to contrast DBQ's high-horsedness about this case and respecting regs and all with the many statements she's previously made about circumventing those with which she doesn't agree. Hilarious, really.

Fred4Pres said...

Read the link I provided DBQ. You just don't want to admit you were wrong. I get it. A lot like a certain city attorney.

Pragmatist said...

How about the freedom to practice your religion in your home, to have friends over and to discuss what you please? Next will some idiot tape your conversation and rat you out for "studying"...as opposed to discussing or lecturing. Time to fire the nanny.

Fred4Pres said...

DBQ why the defense of zoining ordinance. What have you experienced in your life that makes you so knee jerk in favor of the city jerks?

And don't get me wrong, I have seen this go the other way. A friend of mine had a informal "wedding venue" open up next to his house. They would rent it out to people who would cater and bring their own alcohool. So when they had weddings the noise was outrageous, late into the night, and he would occasionally find drunk guests boffing in his bushes (and once on the hood of his car).

Obviously that later example warrants government intervention and a big law suit against the neighbor causing that nuisance.

But a Sunday morning group like this parking on the host's property? Please, the city attorney should have shown more discretion.

Fred4Pres said...

And when I said the ordinance came to them, I am not sure when the ordinance was passed, but these folks have been doing this "meeting" for 17 years. So it was not a problem for 17 years, but when one neighbor complains the city issues a fine? How about a little investigation and to see if there really was an impact.

DBQ you are not my wife, so I do not have to conceed you are right on this one!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Interesting to contrast DBQ's high-horsedness about this case and respecting regs and all with the many statements she's previously made about circumventing those with which she doesn't agree. Hilarious, really.

Not really. The rules and regulations that I disagree with are those that are intrusions into personal space and personal choices.

If I want to drink raw cow's milk or use certain food products those actions do not affect anyone but myself. If I want to keep a herd of braying donkeys or goats on my property (unless it it zoned for that already) I am adversely affecting my neighbors and I have no right to do that.

Actions that don't affect other people or impact anyone but the individual should be no business of the government. That is why I am NOT opposed to same sex marriage. It affects no one but the participants. This is why I oppose abortion. There is a huge affect on another person.....the baby.

Sure..I'm being selective. However, I am not being inconsistent.

Zoning and other types of laws are meant to keep our actions from adversely affecting the community or other people ARE appropriate. Laws such as these are meant to protect the property rights and other rights of the community as a whole.

I'm not one of those people who think we should have no government or no rules. Limited government is appropriate. Without some rules and laws it would be chaos. Those laws and rules are determined by the community at the level we are talking about in this case.

If the community deems it appropriate and harmless to have a Church in a residential area, then they as a community can change the laws by petitioning the City Council and demanding that the rule be changed or eliminated.

Until then.....it is the law.

Shanna said...

There is a restraint against establishing a Physical Church in a residential area.

How do you define a church for those purposes? I think that is the main issue here.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Fred

Since June 2010, the Fromms have opened their home on the northern outskirts of San Juan Capistrano, CA for a Sunday morning Bible study due to renovations at their normal place of meeting. Since last January, they have also hosted a Thursday evening Bible study, which like the Sunday meeting is said to draw anywhere from 6 to 40 people.

They may have been holding services for 17 years. But they were doing it elsewhere. Not in a residential area that is not zoned for such activities.

How do you define a church for those purposes? I think that is the main issue here.

Yes it is. I would say that if you hold regular organized church services in a consistent physical location on a consistent scheduled basis ..it is a church.

The other question is that if you are going to allow exceptions to the law for a church or for religious purposes, are you going to turn a blind eye to ALL other exceptions to the law?

Or do we want to selectively apply the laws or ignore the laws based on who you are, what organizations you belong to and if your organization is popular or culturally accepted.

Dangerous.

Saint Croix said...

Zoning and other types of laws are meant to keep our actions from adversely affecting the community or other people ARE appropriate.

Yeah, like those zoning laws that keep black people from moving into the neighborhood. Cause, you know, it might drive down the property value of my house.

Zoning laws can offend the Constitution and every government official should be made aware of that fact.

If you are fining people for reading the Bible, you have gone beyond your authority as a zoning bureaucrat.

As to your belief that orgies have more legal protection than Bible study, DBQ, maybe you ought to actually read the Constitution.

PatCA said...

Were they establishing a church, though? I thought they were just meeting to study the Bible.

If zoning laws rule, why does a city (about 15 miles away from this house) ignore a house in an upscale R-1 zone that has been bought, chopped up, and rented out to 20-30 illegal aliens who all claim to be of the same family? Who were selling used cars from their driveway? This went on for years.

B/c IMHO enforcement is selective, which means it's wrong.

I Callahan said...

Allow me to say what hasn't been said. I don't care what the law says - the law is an ass in thus case. And DBQ doesn't get to decide what a church is and isn't.

And furthermore, contrary to the law, you DON'T have a constitutional right to have a certain view, especially when in your line of sight SOMEONE ELSE'S PROPERTY exists. Who do you think you are to tell someone else what he/she can have on his own property.

If it were up to me, HOA's would be rendered illegal, and zoning laws would be erased except in cases where fellow homeowners' health would be affected. And there would have to be physical proof of it.

I guess everyone has a point where they cross over into not having any issue living in a police state. I guess it depends on who's ox is being gored.

Pogo said...

If the zoning law doesn't define a church, the city should lose.

" if you hold regular organized church services in a consistent physical location on a consistent scheduled basis ..it is a church. "

I think it is a church only if the members declare it as such.

Otherwise, you're getting into state regulation of religion.

Some zealot could declare that parents and their kids are having a prayer ritual every night, a regular 'service', and therefore have an illegal church.

And bedtime prayers are made illegal.

All the noise/cars/etc. can be handled without invoking religion.

Aggle said...

I've seen some folks asking the question here "How do you define a church?"

That certainly is part of the issue, but not for the reasons you might think. That the ordinance singles out specific groups (religious, fraternal, etc.) to whom this ordinance will apply means that it is clearly unconstitutional.

A valid time, place & manner restriction MUST be content/viewpoint-neutral. Period. This ordinance, as it has been explained in the articles, is clearly not content/viewpoint-neutral, because it does not apply equally to all groups.

The advanced arguments about neighborhood access & parking hold no water, either. A valid time, place & manner restriction must also be narrowly tailored to serve this (admittedly)significant governmental interest. Thus, the ordinance would have to prohibit, for instance,"restricting traffic flow." It does not, but instead merely restricts gathering at all.

I was waiting for our resident ConLaw Professor to weigh in, but I haven't seen anything from her yet.

exhelodrvr1 said...

It seems that there are two unrelated issues here:

1) Should the neighbors be bothered by this?

2) Are these gatherings legal?

It's pretty clear that they aren't legal, which is the main question.

Kirk Parker said...

Scott M,

Thanks!

A few further questions: (1) No visible mechanism where a dedicated minority could get ahold of the HOA leadership and make life miserable for everyone? (2) How easy is it to get rid of bylaws if they've outlived their usefulness (I'm thinking here of things like the frequent ban on outdoor clotheslines.)

A. Shmendrik said...

But Jake,...it's...California...

Scott M said...

A few further questions:

1) Plat representatives are re-elected each year. Anyone owning (very few rentals anyway) in a given plat can run. They just need x number of signatures from residents of their plat. I suppose that's as good as it gets regarding a mechanism.

2) That's a good question. I'm not sure about how this is handled, but it's interesting enough for me to find out.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

zoning laws would be erased except in cases where fellow homeowners' health would be affected. And there would have to be physical proof of it.

So you won't mind if I set up my fish processing and smoked food plant nearby?

How about my large collection of pre 1970 partially dismantled autos that I am using as parts cars for personal use and are parked in my front yard three deep.

How about the plumbing business that we have and all of the various part, defunct bladder tanks. The noise from the testing of pumps is really minimal and the welding operation isn't dangerous to your health.

If I get a legal permit, you won't mind if I open a bar and have 40 people every night. I promise that we will only park on my property and keep the noise down. Since there are no zoning laws that flashing neon sign with a neat pointing arrow saying Dust Bunny's Road House won't be a problem will it?

Since there are no zoning laws, I'm going to build a Section 8 housing development right next to your house or better yet, the elementary school and have 20 apartment units to the acre. Nothing like a large cheaply built tenement property to say welcome to the neighborhood.

If there are no zoning laws, I think I'll build a paper pulp processing plant near by. Not to worry the prevailing wind only blows your direction 40% of the time and while stinky, there aren't any health issues. If there are....prove it.

No zoning laws. Really.

cathy said...

For a while, I talked to churches about religious freedom issues. Zoning was a huge issue. They change laws on established churches. Also, new communities don't zone for churches. In this case one neighbor complained. And they are just supposed to say the law is the law. But, all in all, there are a lot of limits on the free exercise.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

DBQ doesn't get to decide what a church is and isn't.

You are right, I don't. That is up to the Courts and the IRS.

The zoning law restricting usage in residential areas may be unconstitutional and that will be determined.

However, the knee jerk reaction seems to be that it should be hunky dory to break laws JUST because it is a religious group that YOU favor.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

San Juan Capistrano is my neighborhood. I went to the Catholic elementary school at the Old Mission. I grew up in Capistrano Beach, a couple of miles away. San Juan had 4,000 people then, and was isolated from other communities by bean fields and orange groves. Now it has a population of 35,000 and is part of a megalopolis stretching from Oxnard in the north to the boundary of Camp Pendleton in the south. It makes me feel old and crotchety, but I wish they would all go away, back to Michigan and Wisconsin and New Jersey whence they came, and where it is great sport to make fun of California and Californians.

Shanna said...

However, the knee jerk reaction seems to be that it should be hunky dory to break laws JUST because it is a religious group that YOU favor.

I would say the prevailing opinion is rather that either

1. The law is being misapplied, ie, this is not an actual 'church' but rather a bible study, that should not be treated any differently than a monday night football party or

2. The law is wrong and should be changed.

I rather think it's one with a smidge of two in that if there are noise complaints or traffic is blocked or something like that then the town would have a right to restrict activities but only to the point where their actions don't impose on the neighbors.

Gene said...

Joe: Isn’t that pretty much how the Christ fellow defines a “church?”

The "Christ fellow"???

You're on awfully familiar terms with him. What do you call other religious leaders? The "Moses Chap?" The "Mohammed Man?" The "Buddha Dude?"

Saint Croix said...

DBQ, what do you think of the illegal churches in Communist China? The government allows people to go to officially sanctioned churches. And yet this weird Christian sect seems to want to practice religion in the privacy of their homes.

Outrageous! Or not?

Trooper York said...

The Church bells have been rung in Sacred Hearts and St Stephens parish every day for the past 100 years. Recently a newly arrived athesit who bought a home on the block came to to tell the reverand that Carroll Gardens was not a "Catholic" neighborhood anymore and that they could not ring the bells anymore because they disturbed him.

I Callahan said...

So you won't mind if I set up my fish processing and smoked food plant nearby?

Nope. Not if it's your property in the first place.

How about my large collection of pre 1970 partially dismantled autos that I am using as parts cars for personal use and are parked in my front yard three deep.

Since rats and other vermin live in such situations, I think you could safely make the argument that that would affect my health. So yes, I would have a problem.

How about the plumbing business that we have and all of the various part, defunct bladder tanks. The noise from the testing of pumps is really minimal and the welding operation isn't dangerous to your health.

It's not dangerous to my health (that would include my hearing)?Then no, I don't have an issue.

If I get a legal permit, you won't mind if I open a bar and have 40 people every night. I promise that we will only park on my property and keep the noise down. Since there are no zoning laws that flashing neon sign with a neat pointing arrow saying Dust Bunny's Road House won't be a problem will it?

I'll grant you one farther. If it were up to me, you wouldn't NEED a permit. In a free country with free property rights, why should you have to get a permit? So no, I won't mind. A lot of people live in neighborhoods with bars. And a lot of people live above bars. They're not whining about the noise.

Since there are no zoning laws, I'm going to build a Section 8 housing development right next to your house or better yet, the elementary school and have 20 apartment units to the acre. Nothing like a large cheaply built tenement property to say welcome to the neighborhood.

If I stay true to my roots, then it's your property. I can (along with my neighbors) try to out-bid you and keep the land vacant. If not, then oh well; I guess I have to live with it.

If there are no zoning laws, I think I'll build a paper pulp processing plant near by. Not to worry the prevailing wind only blows your direction 40% of the time and while stinky, there aren't any health issues. If there are....prove it.

See the response prior.

No zoning laws. Really.

Really. Believe it or not, the country got along just fine until a bunch of busybody neighbors and power-hungry bureaucrats thought of new ways to control OTHER PEOPLE'S PROPERTY. We used to live in a free country; not so much anymore.

Your posts are usually dead-on; apparently, this is a sore spot for you. You can't have freedom and be told what you can do with your own property. If you're willing to concede that freedom isn't as important when it comes to this, then at least you'll be consistent. I know I'm being consistent.

traditionalguy said...

DBQ is right about the zoning laws always having restricted churches, schools and topless bars to areas that could handle the high traffic volumes they generate

BUT, regulating them out of existence is the evil tactic we see pulled off as "law abiding" these days.

Restricting them to never again teach in The Name of Jesus except down by the industrial warehouse areas is such a trick.

It is like restricting public place prayers to silent prayers or silent moments in place of spoken prayers.

So these pilgrims may have to become the next part of the exodus to Texas. Then the abandoned homes in California can shelter more Mansion Family squatter types.

Jason said...

I think there's a useful distinction to be made between a church and a private bible study gathering, in that a bible study gathering can be invitation-only, where a church is pretty much expected to take all comers.

A church, then, can exercise control of its premises AFTER a disruption occurs, but can't really prevent one from occuring, because it does not control who shows up.

A private Bible study club is fundamentally different from that, and that doesn't have much to do with the size of the gathering, within reason.

Nevertheless, it hasn't been shown, in this case, to cause a niusance that anybody can define.

I think DBQ's IRS point is off base. Even if they consider any donations as "gifts," the recipient doesn't have a reporting requirement. That's the donor's responsibility.

There's a problem if the donor tries to write off the donation, but again, that's the donor's problem, not the recipient.

I think DBQ's rhetorical jihad against this couple is unwarranted.

WV: "inked."
What if instead of Ash Wednesday, we had Tattoo Wednesday every year?

Chubfuddler said...

The couple's listed address is available at online White Pages resources and from that you can get a good view of the street and the neighborhood at Google Maps (and maybe at MapQuest). I can't give an informed opinion on the zoning, the HOA, whether services rather than studies are being conducted or whether there is in fact an "organization," etc., but it does appear to be an area in which there is, as they say in South Park, "ample parking day and night."

Chubfuddler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred4Pres said...

Dust Bunny Queen will not admit she is wrong! Defend he power of zoning.

There was a Have Gun, Will Travel episode on some son of a beloved sheriff who tried to impose the Philadelphia municipal code on some frontier Wyoming town. Hilarity ensued. Paladin had to come and talk sense into the pigheaded kid.


I like Netflix.

Scott M said...

She's just resisting you much.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Never give up. Never surrender!!

:-D

junyo said...

"I don't like the looks of that group of people. How can we get rid of them?"

"Easy, call them a 'church' and pass a zoning law."

'Church' is a logical construct. If you can't have a church on private property without the approval of the state, then you essentially have no right to free assembly.

Partridge said...

I would suggest that you all read something about the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Whether they are or are not a church is not the issue because churches essentially are generally not subject to zoning restrictions. This is one area where Congress has codified a First Amendment standard and thereby preempted municipalities.

Cedarford said...

Fred4Pres said...
Dust Bunny Queen, legitimate zoning and street parkign rules are one thing. I am not disputing that. But this case is not that, it is about over reach. Seriously, if he had 50 people over to watch football it would not be an issue

=================
I side with DBQ on this. The HOAs have been abused, but they exist to protect homeowners from the disruptive and detracting effects of a single property owner. That can make life less pleasant and lower property values if they do not maintain their property and follow the rules they agreed to when they bought the place and accepted the HOA contract.

If you are a Libertarian Freedom Lover or some religious zealot that dreams of your own church or a hard-working mechanic that feels they have a right to have 9 part or wholly stripped for rebuilding autos on your front yard - GO BUY A FREEDOM-LOVING NO PROPERTY RESTRICTIONS AS THE HOLY FOUNDERS BELIEVED, CHURCHES/MOSQUES WELCOME, HOME REPAIR BUSINESSES LOVED HERE!! plot of land in a different neighborhood.

BTW - While HOAs are quite defendable, I imagine DBQ would also agree that they need some latitude to ALSO protect conscientious and compliant residents from the neighborhood nosy busy-body that prowls around looking for the least transgression to report to the "authorities". I know of several people that got "you have got to be kidding me!!" notices of violation for lawns not mowed after the mower died and was two weeks in a repair shop, kids leaving bikes on the front lawn with both parents out at work, etc.

Cedarford said...

PETER V. BELLA said...
Your home is no longer your castle
==============
With good reason. Not that Freedom to do what you pleased with any property you had was ever enshrined in the Constitution, the sacred parchment.
In colonial times, it was left to the neighbors to informally work out that a whorehouse did not belong on the Village Square..nor rum tavern. In the rare cases an "entrepreneur" disagreed, mysterious origin fires happened.

Laws gradually became more codified - no fire hazard business in harbor areas, no pig raising in city limits..London's and later Chicagos Great Fires became the impetus to say block development, develop fire breaks, put owners under rigid fire codes. A man's castle would not be the reason why 10,000 other castles ended up burning.

In the 1910s, cities began trying to make them more livable places and also facilitate public health concerns.
Following France, Germany after cholera outbreaks and polluting of water supplies in mixed use, helter-skelter development led to "zones" so sickness was not a consequence of putting up factory worker apartments next to a dead horse rendering plant..

Americans soon followed and SCOTUS finally confirmed in 1926 that zoning trammelled no liberty that benefits of modern development and public health did not trump.

Shanna said...

GO BUY A FREEDOM-LOVING NO PROPERTY RESTRICTIONS

I know we've been talking about HOA's a lot, but I'm not sure that was the issue here. Wasn't it the city/county that got involved? Don't they live on a 6 acre plot of land with ample space for parking? Aside from the fact that they live in California, I'm not sure that's the issue here. You may be able to avoid a HOA, but it's hard to move away from government. They are everywhere...

Trooper York said...

Cedarford is fine with any restriction on churchs and religion regardless of the rights enshrined in the "scared parchment."

Just as long as the HOA zoning rules are ok with burning a cross.

Then everything is hunky dory.

Betsy said...

Funny, around here, churches are pretty much all in residential areas. The local government wants it that way -- they don't want a piece of commercial property becoming tax exempt. And no one flips out about a church being in -- gasp! -- a residential neighborhood. I really don't see what would be upsetting about it.

Of course, now I'm wondering whether there are places where churches are welcome neither in residential nor in commercial areas. . .

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

DBQ,

Suppose it were a book club -- i.e., a bunch of people who get together to discuss something they've all been reading. (These are everywhere, even pre-Oprah ...) Would that be OK? I mean, so long as it wasn't the Bible?

I just don't get your objection. So far as I can see, these people have been careful not to disturb their neighbors, aren't making noise or clogging the street with parked cars &c., and are generally minding their own business. It doesn't seem analogous at all to running a car-parts business off your front lawn. As someone who generally greets every comment you make with a mental "Right on!," I'm puzzled.

wv: stoidu. I think there are some people camping in Manhattan who went to Stoid U.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I should add that HOAs are the perfect environment for petty tyrants. My husband until recently taught at a school that was at the end of a long street that became (well after the school was there) a seriously upscale neighborhood. Suddenly there was all this concern about traffic, and it was closely monitored at certain hours, so that teachers had to be careful not to leave the campus between (e.g.) 5 and 6 p.m., lest limits be exceeded.

You see the same thing where people move into neighborhoods with preexisting businesses in them (airports, factories, nightclubs, whatever -- it was a particular problem when there was that craze for "lofts" in mixed-use neighborhoods) and then complain that such-and-such is loud, smelly, inconvenient, whatever, and has to be altered. Speaking as one who spent seven years living next door to a Berkeley Farms operation, with a smell like rancid yeast on the air most days, I sympathize; but it was there before I was.

wv: perils. I kid you not.