Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There goes the neighborhood

It appears that San Diego is infringing on the free exercise of religion.

Here's the story:

A San Diego pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a county official and warned they will face escalating fines if they continue to hold Bible studies in their home.

The couple, whose names are being withheld until a demand letter can be filed on their behalf, told their attorney a county government
employee knocked on their door on Good Friday, asking a litany of questions about their Tuesday night Bible studies, which are attended by approximately 15 people.

"Do you have a regular weekly
meeting in your home? Do you sing? Do you say 'amen'?" the official reportedly asked. "Do you say, 'Praise the Lord'?"

The pastor's wife answered yes.

She says she was then told, however, that she must stop holding "religious assemblies" until she and her husband obtain a Major Use Permit from the county, a permit that often involves traffic and environmental studies, compliance with
parking and sidewalk regulations and costs that top tens of thousands of dollars.

Read the whole thing HERE.

I'm curious about the potential impact on church plants and small group Bible studies.

Any thoughts?


Mike said...

Ok...leave it to me to see this from a different angle than what was intended...

I think as Christians we can get incensed at public officials putting limits on our ability to express our religious views when clearly we are constitutionally guaranteed them...and we should be rightly incensed....however I wonder how we would respond if a Muslim community met regularly for prayer 5 times/day in our neighborhood or next door...or if the Baghwan Shree Rajneesh bought the house acrosss the street. Would we be ready to defend their right to assemble and express their religious beliefs? My experience on this subject is that Christians have not been so charitable.

Todd Pruitt said...


1. Muslims gathering at a neighbor's house five times a day every day for prayer is different than a weekly gathering of Christians. Also Americans, or any non-Muslims for that matter should be excused for being a little nervous about your example. No one in America worries about their neighborhood Bible study encouraging and producing dangerous murderers. Do all Muslim groups do this? No. But just about a week ago a muslim terrrorist cell in a New Jersey neighborhood was arrested by the FBI for planning to use surface to air missles to take down air liners (In a N.J. neighborhood!). Again, imagine that story with the subjects being a group of Prebyterians. Does not quite compute.

2. The Baghwan was not leading a weekly Bible study. He set up a compound and was stockpiling arms. I could care less if my neighbors met weekly to study Hindu holy writings, make quilts, or watch basketball. But in most neighborhoods it is not lawful to turn a home into a religious compound. The difference between that and a weekly small group is radical.

You are WRONG about Christians not being charitable Mike. Go to any nation where Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, or communist atheists run the show and you will find out just how charitable Christians are.

That cliche drives me crazy because it is patenly false and slanderous. My how the public schools have failed us!

Mike said...

"Muslims gathering at a neighbor's house five times a day every day for prayer is different than a weekly gathering of Christians"

how? if it is by frequency that sounds like a pretty weak argument to me. Is this not how muslims worship? what if the christian bible study was every day? would you have a problem with that?

I stand by my statement of Christians not being charitable (meaning not tolerating other views)...I have seen it and experienced it. My apologies if you feel that I have over-generalized it...I am speaking from my own experience. I won't let anyone convince me that I am wrong about my experience...yours may be different.

Todd Pruitt said...


If you think Christians are less charitable to your views than are Hindus, Muslims, and communist athiests then you haven't gotten out much.

My point about frequency is that some neighborhoods have covenants that do not permit residents to hold daily gatherings, run a businesses, etc from their homes.

Watch out for those militant Presbyterians!

Mike said...

I am not saying they are more charitable ...it is just that I don't find us (at times) much better. Of course I am not referring to radicalized elements...they exist in any belief structure and maybe more so in some than in others. We should set the standard in this regard...as Jesus did. I have been in countries with oppressive political regimes...they are scary. I was even attacked in one country. But I don't want to play tit for tat when it comes to tolerance of other religions. I think Christians should be the most tolerant people on the planet. I don't mean by that that we accept all as equal views (then we would be universalists)...but it does mean that we don't treat others as less because they hold a different religious view. From a public policy POV we have to be on the side of religious expression, christian or not.

Todd Pruitt said...

We are on the side of religious liberty.

This is what confuses me about what you are saying. There is not a country on the planet that is more religiously tolerant than the U.S. My experience is immaterial. Your experience is immaterial. The FACT is, a Muslim is far more likely to be tolerated by a Christian than the other way around. This is not tit for tat. It's just a fact. Christians are more tolerant because we follow a crucified Savior.

BillPoll said...

RE: Potential impact on new church plants and home Bible Studies - Of course there will be opposition but let us continue to persevere in such pursuits and praise the Lord while we do so for Jesus himself said in John 15:19-21
19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

Todd Pruitt said...

Good point.

When the world treats us well it ought to be the exception rather than the rule. And this is not because we seek persecution but precisely because we (the servants) are not better than our Master.