May 29, 2009

The Back Door to Silence

Justin Katz

Given the hour, perhaps this news excuses a cliché: first, they came for the Christians:

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.

Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.

Broyles said, "The county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' 'Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' 'Yes.'"

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 differentiates between these meetings and religious assemblies, and in so doing, he may be highlighting a path to oppression of which citizens should be aware:

"For churches and religious assemblies there's big parking concerns, there's environmental impact concerns when you have hundreds or thousands of people gathering. But this is a different situation, and we believe that the application of the religious assembly principles to this Bible study is certainly misplaced," said Broyles.

Obviously, large-group concerns apply regardless of the topic inspiring assemblage. A political rally, for example, could create parking problems and affect the environment just as well; translate this story to that context, and overly enthusiastic government administrators could effectively strangle grassroots opposition groups before they've begun.

(via Hit & Run)

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this sounds like a clear 1st Amendment violation,but I'm sure Steven Brown could explain why it isn't.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 29, 2009 11:18 PM

I'd love to know why "nor prohibit the free exercise thereof" doesn't mean exactly what it says. This case is civil rights lawyer's dream. After they're done with the lawsuit, they won't have to meet in a house anymore, because they'll be able to afford to buy a full-fledged church with all the cash.

Posted by: Will at May 30, 2009 2:19 AM

Maybe the funniest line in the story:

"What about people who are meeting to watch baseball games on a regular basis and support the Chargers?" Broyles asked."

Yeah, and the Celtics might win the Super Bowl this year too!

Posted by: Patrick at May 30, 2009 9:58 AM

When I hear of this county official similarly enforcing against a group of Muslims I'll be more willing to give him some credibility.

Posted by: Tom W at May 30, 2009 10:30 AM

What's the big whoop? My senior year in college, I lived with a Bible study group visiting my apartment every week (I had a roommate who was born again, though it didn't stop him from bragging about the sexual conquests he made before he found God).
These matters sometimes take care of themselves, as happened in my roommate's case - the group eventually shunned him because it didn't approve of the girl he started dating.

Posted by: rhody at May 31, 2009 12:17 AM
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