An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.This is even more interesting given that Saddleback Church, one of the nation's largest megachurches, has a new property in the city of San Juan Capistrano, and the church probably has something north of 2,000 small groups that meet in homes all over Southern California, and undoubtedly there are lots of the them in San Juan.
Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.
That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.
The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI.
“We’re just gathering and enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. And we enjoy studying God’s word.” Stephanie Fromm told CBS2.
After city officials rejected the Fromms’ appeal, PJI, which represents other Bible study participants, will appeal the decision to the California Superior Court in Orange County.
Home groups are very common these days and they represent lots of voters who might not like the idea of re-electing city officials who oppose them. Even if the city wins the legal challenge, they'll lose in the long run.