San Diego County cracking down on…home Bible study

This sounds like a serious case of overreaching on the part of local government:

A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold bible studies in their home, 10News reported.

…The county employee notified the couple that the small bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of county regulations, according to Broyles.

Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed “unlawful use of land” and told them to “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit” — a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Now, unless there’s a lot more to the story–local residents voicing legitimate complaints about parking problems, for example–this sounds like a bunch of bullshit on the part of the county. Fifteen people gathering in a private residence should not need a fucking permit to do anything. I that Bible study is about the most profound waste of time imaginable, but these people should be allowed to do it without forking over thousands of dollars (although there’s a certain dark justice in the idea given the untold millions–hell, billions–religious organizations have saved over the years owing to unjustifiable tax exemptions).

Christians are wont to scream about “persecution,” and whereas most of the time this translates to “We can’t use secular entities to enforce out morality on others 100 percent of time,” this sort of unnecessary intrusion gives them ammunition.

Hell, home Bible study should be encouraged, not punished. The more time people spend at gatherings like the one in San Diego, the less likely they are to continue trying to shoehorn religious nonsense into public schools and other places it doesn’t belong. (That’s probably a failed theory, but work with me here.) When people want to self-quarantine their stupid ideas and beliefs, by all means let them.

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  1. #1 by Greg Laden on May 28, 2009 - 9:42 pm

    I don’t believe it yet. I read the seemingly only original source and it does not have any info from any source other than the aggrieved, who remain anonymous. I’m not quite sure how a news story about the county taking legal action vs. the citizens against whom the action was taken gets printed without a word from the county, or at least, a note that attempts were made to contact the county but they refused to answer the phone or whatever….

  2. #2 by Lee on May 29, 2009 - 1:16 am

    Be glad you don’t live in San Diego.

    San Diego County is one of the most backwards, repressive bureaucracies in the USA. County PR staffers are now tap-dancing like puppets on speed as they do damage control.

    E-mail Supervisor Chair Greg Cox at greg.cox@sdcounty.ca.gov and tell him what a great job (not!) Code Enforcement Head Pam Elias and her staff are doing or tell her yourself at Pam.Elias@sdcounty.ca.gov

    I hope this goes to court. The County is going to lose big time. Too bad the taxpayers and not the out-of-control bureaucrats will pay the costs and damages.

    Hopefully all this negative publicity will protect other citizens from further abuse by these bureaucratic zealots.

  3. #3 by Gingerbaker on May 29, 2009 - 9:51 am

    It’s Shrinking Church Syndrome. The Church is never quite large enough, nor does a day contain enough hours which can be devoted to prayer. Therefore, The Word must be insinuated into the public square, into state schools, on the public airwaves, shone high on billboards, shouted to the heavens, and shared door to door.

    Sorry, but evidently there is an ordinance on the books that this Pastor – who gets tax exemptions for his Shrinking Church – should have known about. I think you are correct, Kevin, about parking likely being the issue, although zoning laws don’t concern themselves with numbers, just use. In fact, it sounds like the pastor was informed but refused to stop his defiant use of his residential home as a church. Give to Caesar, Pastor, as Caesar has already shown his benevolence to you.

  4. #4 by Greg Laden on May 29, 2009 - 5:26 pm

    so this is not just a thing that happened in someones house, but rather, on tax exempt church like property?

    The problem was probably that they did not pay the detail fees to the local cops.

  5. #5 by Gingerbaker on May 30, 2009 - 10:45 am

    “so this is not just a thing that happened in someones house, but rather, on tax exempt church like property?”

    No, this is my poor attempt at communication.

    Here is the deal: The Pastor had been having 15 or so people at his residential home for Bible meetings every week for 5 years. His neighbors got fed up and called someone from the County, because there are zoning regulations which the Pastor is violating. The Pastor and some lawyer from a Christian law organization are playing the victim card here and claiming they are being discriminated upon because of their religious views. They actually had the gall to compare their situation with a Tupperware party.

    My point is that (I assume) the Pastor already has a church where he can hold these meetings – one that is subsidized by taxpayers. The “Shrinking Church Syndrome” is my coinage for a pet peeve of mine. Church property is tax exempt. We are subsidizing the use of churches as a public good, but that is not enough for Christians anymore. Their tax subsidized churches are evidently now too small, so they demand that their churchyard now include the public square as well, which ticks me off.

    In this case, the Pastor is basically arguing that his home should receive an automatic exemption from zoning laws, because he is, after all, a religious man doing religious things in his house, and the public be damned. But the public is already subsidizing his church property so that he may enjoy as many religious meetings as he wants THERE, at his church. Where his rights are sacrosanct, of course.

    Hence, my exhortation to the good Pastor to render unto Caesar.

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