SoCal City: You’re gonna need a permit for that Bible study.

Posted on March 18, 2010

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Does the government have the right to come into your home and tell you whether or not you can peaceably assemble with others along religious or political lines? A city in Southern California thinks so.

For the second time in six months, the city has ordered a group of Christian worshippers who meet inside homes to get a permit or shut down.

Officials said the homeowner needs a conditional use permit by Good Friday, April 2, to operate a church in a residential area.

The permit requires public hearings, traffic studies and other costly procedures. Requiring one would be “manifestly absurd and unjust,” according to a statement Tuesday from Brad Dacus, president of the Sacramento-based institute.

The 1st Amendment, fully incorporated on the states by the 14th Amendment, of the US Constitution protects both freedom of religion and the right to assemble peaceably. Granted, in the past courts have separated commercial rights in similar circumstances. Obviously, cities can zone residential areas in a way that does not allow someone to operate a business out of their home, for example. But what about a Bible study? And even if it is a church service, so what? As long as they are not violating noise ordinances, what business is it of the city? It gets worse when you consider, according to the article, the city has ignored similar sized in home meetings – it’s only attacking this Christian one.

Even if you’re not Christian and can’t relate to a Bible study, just substitute a different purpose of the gathering. Imagine you want to have a group meeting of Democrats at your home to discuss political ideas. Your speech and assembly rights are unassailable by the city. They should not be able to shut you down and they should not be able to shut down someone else’s meeting, either.

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