Skip to comments.County won't force permit on Bible study leaders (Home Bible Study)
Posted on 05/30/2009 7:33:30 PM PDT by radar101
David Jones, a pastor in National City, holds Bible study groups in his Bonita home. (Peggy Peattie / Union-Tribune) -
Sweeping issues of religious freedom and governmental regulation are swirling around Pastor David Jones' house in rural Bonita, attracting attention from as far away as China and New Zealand.
He says it all started with $220 in car damage. Jones and his wife, Mary, hold a weekly Bible study at their home that sometimes attracts more than 20 people, with occasional parking issues. Once, a car belonging to a neighbor's visitor got dinged.
David Jones paid for the damage, but he thinks the incident spurred a complaint to the county.
A code enforcement officer warned the couple in April for holding a religious assembly without a permit. The action became an international incident when it was reported last week on the Web site worldnetdaily.com. The Joneses assert that the county's action violates their rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. Their story was picked up by conservative Web sites for days, then made it to CNN yesterday.
Barraged by hundreds of complaints, San Diego County officials backed down yesterday from their enforcement. No one respects the right to free religious expression more than I do, and no one would find the infringement of such rights more abhorrent, county Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard said in a statement. Chandra Wallar, the county's general manager of land use and environment, said the county has re-examined the situation and decided that the Joneses don't need a permit after all.
Religious assembly, under the county land-use code, is defined as religious services involving public assembly such as customarily occurs in synagogues, temples, and churches.
Wallar said that definition, which doesn't spell out specific thresholds on when a religious gathering becomes a religious assembly, probably needs to be clarified and that more training may be warranted for code enforcement officers. She said the county was not targeting the Joneses because they were exercising their religion, but rather it was trying to address parking and traffic issues.
We've advised the pastor he has the authority to continue to hold his meetings just as he's held them, Wallar said. My hope is we will be able to resolve the traffic concerns.
Wallar said the person who filed the complaint alleged that Bible study was drawing 30 to 40 cars. In an interview yesterday, the pastor said at most, there are six additional cars on Bible study day. Jones, pastor of South Bay Community Church in National City, said he has visitors park in a lot that he owns beside his house.
We're in trouble if they are going to go with a parking issue, because that means that thousands of people in Bible study groups could be cited for a parking violation, Jones said.
What about people who gather to play Texas Hold 'Em, Mommy and Me, 'Monday Night Football,' Boy Scouts, Alcoholics Anonymous? Everyone has a right as a homeowner to the quiet enjoyment of their property. They're trying to take that away. We're not going to let it go.
Constitutional law scholars say that the county can impose land-use restrictions on religious gatherings, as long as they are not unreasonable or discriminatory. If people can get together weekly to read books or discuss books or play bridge, if those are OK, there would be a constitutional issue involved in singling out, among other things, religion as a forbidden thing, said Larry Alexander, constitutional law professor at the University of San Diego.
Dean Broyles, president of the Western Center for Law & Policy, a nonprofit organization in Escondido that supports religious liberty, is representing the Joneses. He said traffic issues were not raised when the code enforcement officer first visited the Joneses in response to the complaint. The warning itself does not mention traffic or parking problems.
Even though the county is saying it's about traffic and parking, it's a fake issue. It's a fabricated issue, Broyles said.
According to Broyles, the code enforcement officer asked a series of pointed questions during her visit with the Joneses questions such as, Do you sing? Do you say 'amen?' Do you say 'praise the Lord?' Wallar said the county is investigating what questions were asked and in what context. She said a code enforcement officer does have to ask questions about how a place is being used to determine what land-use codes are applicable.
Our county simply does not tolerate our employee straying outside what the appropriate questions are, Wallar said. Ekard, the top county executive, emphasized in his statement that he would get to the bottom of the matter. Should I find that county staff at any level acted in a heavy-handed way; did anything inappropriate under the circumstances; or that a change or revision to our processes and procedures is warranted, I will take appropriate action immediately, he said. As of late yesterday, county Supervisor Greg Cox's office which represents the area reported having received 400 e-mail messages about the Joneses'situation. Wallar said her department has received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls as well. Broyles said he's been fielding media calls nonstop. It's been hard to do anything else but to handle the phone calls and media interviews, he said. It's been crazy, back to back to back to back.
San Diego County’s April 14 code-enfocement warning against the Joneses’ Bible study for a religious assembly lacking a permit
May 26 letter from the Joneses’ lawyer, Dean Broyles, to the county
County Administrative Officer Walt Ekard’s May 29 statement saying “the Bible studies will continue”
Freedom of Assembly. 20 people? I’ve seen BBQs get way bigger than than.
Hmmm.. I didnt know there was such a thing as rural Bonita anymore.
I would have a problem if a neighbor had loud meetings and congested parking frequently in my area... because that would restrict my freedom to enjoy the peace and tranquility of living in my house...
But I really don't think that is the issue here... and when a public official asks these type of questions which clearly violates the Constitution... I have a BIG problem with that!
Another point I wanted to make was without conservative bloggers... this Pastor would have been SOOL... I predict the liberals will come after the conservative bloggers next...
Then most high school open houses would need to be banned, too.
That's the issue right there. Whoever asked these inappropriate questions was way out of line. It sounds like this was some power-hungry person pushing the limits of his/her power. My guess is that he, or she, has gotten away with this before. Notice they don't identify the "code enforcement officer" by name. Just as well.
Stepping on a person's faith is the equivalent to telling an unbeliever that his mother is a whore. Seriously.
Wow, I’m surprised to hear the story got picked up by CNN. Would like to have heard their version of it.
the soviet union tribune did not publish an article
on this until roger hedgecock mentioned that they had failed
to mention it yesterday.
The goverment thugs backed down only after the lawyers came in.
Some will do anything to stop people from Bible studies...
As would most yard sales, sports event gatherings and family BBQs
The letter the Jone’s attorney wrote indicated it was a guest who was visiting a neighbor that complained. Apparently the complainant does not even live in the neighborhood.
“I will take appropriate action immediately, he said.”
Nonsense. I doubt if that weenie even knows how to tie a cat o’ nine tails.
Praise the Lord. There is still freedom in America!
Beware of the cat!
The Catholic Church in Connecticut is now suing the state of CT in a civil suit.
The state of CT informed the Catholic Church in an official notice that it was an unregistered lobbyist and it was illegal for the church to inform church members of their rights from the pulpit during services.
Obama and his cult thugs are after the 1st Ammendment and much more.
Arrrrrrrrr, belay the unseemly jocularity, ya lubber.
Arrrrrrrrr, belay the unseemly jocularity, ya lubber.
Whoever pushed this b.s. in the first place should be placed in stocks in the county park and had rotten garbage thrown at them.
Com TRY to keep me and MY friends from praying or reading the bible in MY home. And ya better bring some help.
And last but most importantly, "did you vote for the fuhrer Obama?"
All those responsible for this b.s. should get fired.
Course we all know no govt. employee ever gets fired.
Yes, I just read through the thread about this.
Amazing how shining a little light on these infrigements, can cause some change. We need to stay vigilant, and share info. Free Republic is great. I was one of the many that emailed these creeps.
I had more than 30 people at my granddaughter's 1st birthday party last week.
For those who are interested, here is an earlier thread, 5/28....... http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2260076/posts
Yes, but did you bless the cake? That would be offensive to the “leaders-in-charge”.
thanks for the updat
bet we’d allt hink different if a group of smelly muslims got togther next door and started chanting to allah, and doing the koran thing.
I would not allow that next to my home. i bought a home with homes around it, not mosques.
be carefull what you hope for. the muzzies are coming