Thursday, April 01, 2010

Another Calif. City Restricts Home Bible Studies

Officials in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., who had ordered participants of a home Bible study either to purchase an unobtainable city permit to meet or shut down, now are relenting a little. . . . but they are reserving the right to shut down other Bible studies.

-- From "Southern California City Says Home Bible Group Must Get Permit" by The Associated Press 3/17/10

Rancho Cucamonga is trying to halt Friday night meetings at a home after receiving a complaint in February from a neighbor that 40 to 60 people were gathering weekly in the San Bernardino County location.

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

Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal defense group that specializes in conservative Christian issues, said the meetings were actually a Bible study group that usually draws about 15 people.

Last September, complaints by neighbors about traffic problems prompted the city to order Joe and Diana Johnson to get a church permit or shut down Christian gatherings at their home. The city eventually allowed the meetings to continue without a permit.

Also last year, San Diego County apologized to a pastor and his wife who were cited and told to get a permit for a weekly Bible study session that drew five to 27 people to their Bonita home.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "SoCal city drops threat against Bible group" by The Associated Press 3/30/10

Rancho Cucamonga has withdrawn a demand that a home Bible study group get a permit or shut down.

Linda Courtney with the Building and Safety Department says Tuesday that it was a misunderstanding and the order was rescinded last week after officials met with the pastor.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "City opens door a crack for home Bible studies" by Bob Unruh © 2010 WorldNetDaily 3/30/10

Brad Dacus, whose Pacific Justice Institute is working on the case, said then it appeared city officials were deliberately choosing to close down the study, which had been ordered to cease by Good Friday.

The city's letter insisted the study is not allowed because it is a "church," Dacus said. In the city, churches are required to obtain a Conditional Use Permit in residential areas.

But the institute now has confirmed Rancho Cucamonga has dropped its pending enforcement action against the group, although the way is not yet clear for others to meet.

Pacific Justice reported the mayor and other city officials even visited the Friday night Bible study last week.

"However, while the city has dropped its enforcement action against the Bible study group, the city has indicated that it did so only because it determined that the Friday night group did not appear to be a 'church,'" according to a new Justice Institute report.

"In a letter to Pacific Justice Institute last week, an attorney for the city defended the city's requirement that all churches in residential zones are illegal unless they obtain a costly permit. Thus, small home-based religious groups that consider themselves churches or meet on Sunday mornings instead of weeknights could still face severe enforcement action by the city at any time. And to date, city officials have taken no action to change this policy," the report said.

"We are very pleased that the City of Rancho Cucamonga saw the light and dropped their attempts to shut down this Friday night Bible study," said attorney Michael Peffer, who heads PJI's Southern California office.

"At the same time, we are concerned that the city appears determined to use the same heavy-handed tactics against house churches. We urge any church or Bible study group threatened by Rancho Cucamonga or any other local government to contact PJI immediately," he said.

The situation was similar to a dispute that arose recently in Gilbert, Ariz., and another last year in San Diego County.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.