Recently a California pastor and his wife were required by San Diego County officials to obtain a permit to hold a Bible study in their home.
"What?! Is this a joke?" I wondered as I heard the news for the first time. It was no joke. Rather, it's a First Amendment nightmare and possibly a foreshadowing of what's to come.
Are you prepared for a future in which you hear, "Got your permit to study the Bible?"
On April 10 (Good Friday), a county code enforcement officer visited the home of David and Mary Jones after receiving a complaint about their Christian gatherings. The Jones' attorney, Dean Broyles, president of The Western Center for Law & Policy, conveyed in disbelief, "The county asked (Mrs. Jones), '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 officer then warned the family to "cease and desist" the "religious gathering" or they would face weekly fines. A few days later, the county delivered a citation claiming that the Joneses were guilty of "unlawful use of land" and mandating them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit."
At first, I thought, "They must have a large congregation meeting in their home to warrant this type of citation and prompt this type of commotion, right?" Actually, according to their lawyer, the Joneses have been hosting weekly Bible studies in their home for about five years, with an average attendance of only about 15 people.
Broyles appropriately responded, "If the county thinks they can shut down groups of 10 or 15 Christians meeting in a home, what about people who meet regularly at home for poker night? What about people who meet for Tupperware parties? What about people who are meeting to watch baseball games on a regular basis and support the Chargers?"
Well, this past weekend, barraged by hundreds of complaints after WorldNetDaily broke the news to the international community, San Diego County officials informed the world that they'd backed down from requiring the Joneses to obtain a permit. Despite their retraction (based solely upon public pressure, I might add), however, I am appalled at how far the county's enforcement and encroachment crossed the constitutional line and became a flagrant disregard for Americans' right to exercise their religious faiths. And I'm concerned that we will see far more of these overreaching governmental actions in years to come.