Christian Couple Fined for Having Bible Study in California Home
Chuck Fromm told ANS: “As most of you have heard, my wife Stephanie and I have locked horns with our city government over the right to gather in our home for a Bible study without a permit.
“As with most issues, this matter can get very complex very quickly. The fact is that in our city, San Juan Capistrano, any ‘religious organization’ where more than three people meet regularly in a home must obtain a conditional use permit from the city. This is a very costly process, which we believe infringes on basic constitutional rights — rights which guarantee us private space and freedom from undue government control,” Fromm said in an e-mail update.
“I agree with Len Sweet [Currently the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University, Madison, NJ and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Theological School at Drew University] that ‘persecution [for the Church] would come in the form of prosecution’ in our anything but Christian culture,” he said.
“Yet I never expected to be involved in such a fight. In fact I have a high degree of empathy with city zoning officials having worked early in my career as an assistant city manager.
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This happens all over the country and people like this couple will just have to fight for doing the work of God. There are so many other so called crimes they need to tend to than to bother good Christian people who are not harming anyone.
City officials in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. say Chuck and Stephanie Fromm are in violation of municipal code 9-3.301, which prohibits “religious, fraternal or non-profit” organizations in residential neighborhoods without a permit. Stephanie hosts a Wednesday Bible study that draws about 20 attendees, and Chuck holds a Sunday service that gets about 50.
The Fromms appealed their citations but were denied and warned future sessions would carry heftier penalties. A statement from the Pacific Justice Institute, which is defending the couple in a lawsuit against the city, said Chuck Fromm was also told regular gatherings of three or more people require a conditional use permit, which can be costly and difficult to obtain.
“How dare they tell us we can’t have whatever we want in our home,” Stephanie Fromm told the Capistrano Dispatch. “We want to be able to use our home. We’ve paid a lot and invested a lot in our home and backyard … I should be able to be hospitable in my home.”
According to the Dispatch, the Fromms live in a neighborhood with large homes and have a corral, barn, pool and huge back lawn on their property, so parking and noise aren’t a problem.
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