Couple Fined for Studying Bible at Home Without a Permit

BibleA couple running a home Bible study group in California's San Juan Capistrano has been fined for letting that holy good time get too big. They're fighting back, saying they have the First Amendment of the Constitution on their side. But folks, this isn't just a matter of freedom of religion.

The city told Chuck and Stephanie Fromm that their meetings violated zoning because they held "a regular gathering of more than three people." Faced with a $300 fine for running their group without a permit, they face additional fines of $500 for every future religious gathering. What, for having too much fun with their friends?

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I haven't read a Bible since college (when it was part of the course materials), but this has me righteously indignant on the Fromms' behalf. The city says the guests park on the streets, creating a nuisance for neighbors. And even though neighbors have written back to the city saying they're not bothered in the least, the city is pushing the couple to get a permit for their Bible study.

In one way, I get it. Parking is a pain. I grew up attending a church where the lot overflowed onto the roadway every single Sunday morning. Not to mention, living in a small town, I love me some zoning. When a bathroom was being constructed across the street from my house, I knew it would have to be done properly precisely because my town has zoning regulations that protect other homeowners. Communities need rules because some people have zero consideration for their neighbors.

But a regulation that prohibits more than three people from getting together at one time doesn't just seem to fly in the face of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. That's what the Fromms will use in court, of course, but in the court of public opinion? It's just plain ridiculous.

Three people? That's fewer folks than the average American family!

Let's talk about a playgroup. To get one started, you have to have two moms and two kids, and oh ... my ... word, you're already over the limit before you even get that sucker going! I used to belong to a book club with four regular members. Again, totally over the limit. And those are normal, everyday, regular gatherings that plenty of people have. But the way that city rule calls it, you'd need to get a conditional use permit. To let a couple of toddlers sit around your living room floor throwing blocks at each other?

Puh-lease!

Whose side are you on?


Image via DrGBB/Flickr

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