Couple hit with fines for holding a Bible study in their home

Where two are three are gathered in His name, there good ol’ California city government is in the midst of them. Seriously. This happened. The Blaze reports:

A southern California couple has been fined $300 dollars for holding Christian Bible study sessions in their home, and could face another $500 for each additional gathering.

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. Stephanie hosts a Wednesday Bible study that draws about 20 attendees, and Chuck holds a Sunday service that gets about 50.

The Fromms appealed their citations but were denied and warned future sessions would carry heftier penalties. A statement from the Pacific Justice Institute, which is defending the couple in a lawsuit against the city, said Chuck Fromm was also told regular gatherings of three or more people require a conditional use permit, which can be costly and difficult to obtain.

Mrs. Fromm was rightly incensed at the city government’s intrusion into her living room. “I should be able to be hospitable in my own home,” she said. Had it been her bedroom, libs would have leaped to her defense, but as it was, no such luck for the lady.

The municipal code bans a religious organization. I’d say a private Bible study hardly qualifies — it’s just a friendly gathering of like-minded folks. Would the city of San Juan Capistrano also consider a family-members-only Bible study a religious organization?

But, more broadly, why is the ban on the books in the first place? What’s wrong with religious, fraternal and non-profit organizations in a residential neighborhood?

According to The Blaze, the Fromms’ property is such that parking and noise aren’t a problem. Plus, the Bible study is meditative. But the code enforcement department relies on complaints, which means some unfriendly neighbor or other member of the community turned the Fromms in. That snitch makes Gladys Kravitz look politely respectful of privacy.

The old gal in me wants to say “an eye for an eye,” but the new gal in me thinks maybe the Fromms’ best bet would be to ask the city officials — and the snoopy neighbor — to sit in on a session or two.