OC Couple Fined $500 for Bible Study- Seriously?

An interesting article came across my inbox this morning from a  friend and I almost fell over. I guess the days of persecution and End Times Big Brother are hitting closer and closer to home.

September 20, 2011 – cbs2.com

MISSION VIEJO (CBS) — An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what one city official called “a regular gathering of more than three people” that requires a conditional use permit, according to Pacific Justice Institute, 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 the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI).  “We don’t like lawsuits, but we have to stand up for what’s right. It’s not just a personal issue,” Stephanie Fromm told The Capistrano Dispatch. “Can you imagine anybody in any neighborhood, that one person can call and make it a living hell for someone else? That’s wrong … and it’s just sad.”

After city officials rejected the Fromms’ appeal, PJI, which represents both the Fromms and 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.

Officials with San Juan Capistrano did not respond to requests for comment.

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This blows my mind. A small gathering of people gathered in a home to study and worship God is breaking the law?

What about monthly poker nights, mothers’ play dates, bunko gatherings, holiday celebrations, wine groups, book clubs and my personal favorite, Monday night football groups?  Do all these count as a regular gathering of more than three people? I think so!!!!!!!

Or is it just the name of Jesus that get’s people’s panties all up in a wad?

Bit by bit, our freedom to worship God, is crumbling before our very eyes.

I am generally not prone to getting involved in politics, but I will be writing a letter to the City of San Juan Capistrano in support of the Fromms’ appeal because I certainly don’t want some yahoo calling the cops on me for my crazy Christian shin-digs; like ministry meetings, New Believers picnics and so forth. (wild…I know).

Very soon, Bible Studies may have a cover charge if we don’t stand up to this absurd ordinance. Next thing you know we will be meeting in underground house churches like the Chinese.

(Then again, maybe we need a little persecution to light the church on fire and help us remember exactly who we worship) A Very Big GOD!

Thoughts?

Comments

  1. My comments are varied.
    Mainly – how often does anyone invite 50 or more people to “my crazy Christian shin-digs; like ministry meetings, New Believers picnics and so forth” Twice a week?
    At somepoint city zoning will notice and will look into the activity because it starts to become a public/maybe business event rather than totally private; the articles I have read are sadly lacking in San Capistrano’s rules & regs & they are,rightly or wrongly, keeping quiet because the PJI has opened a huge kettle of fish from a tiny can of sardines. As I noted to a friend, if it had been a swingers gathering the same objections could have been raised on the same zoning rules. They do quote “religious gathering” and that may indicate bias against religion or it may indicate that they noted the purpose of the meetings as plain fact. (they took the trouble to find out).
    All of this ‘freedom of religion being threated’ language feels so over the top it needs people to respond to your spreading such shocked “seriously” word with straight questions, to try for some more perspective. Are you sooo sure it is because they are a religious organisation? (evidence is not there in the articles)
    If there are zoning laws why do the Frooms & the PJI feel they have more right than others to be excepted? Hopefully the Frooms can find the root of the problem, and stop feeling persecuted.
    Here in Britain we have a huge news story regarding zoning planning permission & a way of life, Romany/Gypsy. More at stake than $300 for forgetting that rendering to Ceaser is a public/civic responsibility that touches all sorts of public arenas: neighbourhood disturbance maybe (and properly countered it appears) but also health & safety, other traffic issues such as road maintenance, environment, tax consequences perhaps if it turns out the meetings were not what they appeared (city needed to investigate), Who knows? San Capistrano, those who made the rules and those who are given the task of enforcing them on the public’s behalf.

    I am an active Christian and a sceptic regarding such protests of religious persecution of Christians in America. You really do have freedom of religion and if the PJI is really being given fines because the PJI is being religious (if the police find malicious officials with grudges) then the culprits will get their come uppance.
    These are my comments as you asked.
    All this oh my goshness is just plain daft. And I am not afraid to say so. Thank you.

  2. Hi Aran,
    Thank you very much for taking the time to respond and I appreciate your input. I would certainly be as skeptical as you are if I looked at this issue from a distance, but the “oh my goodness and goshes” you called “daft” are due more to an indepth understanding of this neighborhood and cultural climate that the incident occurred in because I live nearby. In Orange County CA, a home Bible study would be a smashing success if fourteen people showed up on a regular basis. I know this because I have been in ministry for almost twenty years and have planted a local church. The Fromm’s Bible Study had six regular attendees.
    You might not also be familiar with the American Homeowners Association, a particularly controlling utopian Big Brother’s that makes our lives, should we choose to live in these communities, rather challenging. If you leave a trash can out next to the fence you are fined, if a plant decides to overgrow it’s boundary by an inch-bamm- fined. Homeless people are picked up and deported to other cities and any deviance from neighborhood perfection is abhorred. I got a letter threatening fines for a brown spot the size of a dinner plate on my lawn. This is the culture we live in here. If a teenager throws a party for over fifty people, helicopters and ten police cars will descend within minutes dressed in riot gear.
    The Fromm’s case appears to be a personal attack. All neighbors claim innocence in reporting the incident and have actually written letters to support the Fromm’s. How the Fromm’s group came to be identified as a religious group is also in question.
    I probably should have explained this in more detail on my blog. This was a mistake and I take full responsibility. Unfortunately, as a working mom of three, I try to jam through my writing on lunch break and I wasn’t as thorough as I needed to be.
    Thank you again and I hope this explains the situation better.
    Sam

  3. Sam, thanks for posting this excerpt and word of outrage and encouragement for the Fromm’s. There’s quite a bit of confusion over the matter, and I sure hope things get cleared up soon. Working with the Fromm’s, I know them to be peace-loving and good people. Hoping for a quicker resolve, but a lot is at stake for not just for the Fromm’s but for all. Continuing updates are being posted at chuckfromm.net

    • Hi DJ,
      Thanks for keeping me updated. By the way, I am a big fan of yours! You keep me updated via Twitter on all the relevant topics around faith and I really appreciate your committment and hard work.

      I will continue to follow the Fromm’s case and will pray for resolution.

      Many blessings,
      Sam Keller

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