Skip to comments.Virginia county takes aim at home Bible studies, freedom of assembly
Posted on 05/15/2014 1:16:56 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
A new Fairfax County, Va., zoning proposal takes direct aim at the right to assemble in the privacy of ones own home.
This proposed Group Assembly in Residential Dwellings zoning ordinance amendment not only poses a grave and fundamental violation of the U.S. Constitution but smacks of the worst type of government overreach.
The ordinance would limit the number of people one could have in their home to 49 a day, and to exceed that limit more than 3 times in any 40-day period would be a violation of law.
I never imagined hosting a Bible study in my home could one day be a violation of the law, but thats exactly what this proposal could do.
On a recent Wednesday night, I joined dozens of other concerned residents of the county at one of three planned Fairfax County Board of Supervisors community meetings to voice our outrage about this proposal.
I explained how the proposed amendment would violate the right to free speech, the right to religious expression, and the right to freedom of assembly.
The Supreme Court has specifically held that it would be a direct violation of the Constitution for an ordinance to make criminal the exercise of the right of assembly simply because its exercise may be annoying' to some people.
Thats precisely what the proposed ordinance aims to do.
It limits the rights of the Fairfax residents to peaceably assemble in their own homes, to hold Bible studies there, and conduct many other lawful activities.
It not only violates the U.S. Constitution, it violates Virginias religious freedom statue by substantially burdening an individuals religious right to hold a Bible study in their own home if it exceeds a certain number of participants.
In fact, the explanation for this proposal on Fairfax County's website specifically denotes religious meetings as one of the intended targets of this ordinance.
The supposed need for the proposed amendment is to combat parking, noise, and other concerns, yet none of these issues are addressed by the ordinance.
The county has plenty of tools in its arsenal to combat any actual problem without violating the constitutional rights of its citizenry.
As I explained to the county officials, there are numerous ordinances on the books governing parking, noise, trespassing, and property damage.
To limit the number of people allowed to visit a home would be the same as if the county were to address obnoxiously loud music by banning playing the radio altogether in ones home. Its that absurd.
Its been reported that out of the millions of peaceful gatherings that occur in Virginias most populous county, there were only six complaints of problematic, large gatherings over the last year.
This ordinance would not only hamper Bible studies, but birthday parties, community block parties, realtors open houses, having people over to watch the big game, and so much more.
As one resident complained, being from a large family, just gathering with his extended family for Sunday dinner would suddenly be illegal.
It opens up the county to needless litigation, at taxpayer expense, over a perceived problem that could be solved in less intrusive ways.
This proposed ordinance is just more needless regulation to resolve a nonexistent problem and make violators out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
Thankfully, at least one member of the board, Pat Herrity, has raised the alarm on this issue, concerned about the legal pitfalls of such an ordinance.
Hopefully, the entire board will heed the opinions expressed by county residents and quash this absurd and blatantly unconstitutional assault on our rights.
This zoning change...started out as a way to tighten down on older homes in the region which were being rented out to immigrant families and were being used to house more than just the family itself. Various other parties have piled onto the zoning change, and it figures into dozens of scenarios....one of which revolves around prayer groups. Another group in this discussion are the swinger-types, and there’s even the teen crowd utilizing dad’s house on Friday night for huge parties involving a hundred or more teenagers. So, as much as we might say it’s anti-religious in nature....it got created to cover a number of problems that homeowners are upset about.
I can’t imagine fitting 49 people in my home for a Bible study - I would imagine that a number of people such as this would cause localized parking and or noise problems but why not deal with that on a case by case basis and use the laws currently available!
“I cant imagine fitting 49 people in my home for a Bible study “
I’m against this ordinance, but I agree with you. I also can’t imagine 49 people in my ordinary suburban house! They’d be “back to back, belly to belly!” And 25 to 40 cars? That’s like 500 feet of parking, or more, considering driveways and fire hydrants! My neighbors would not be happy!
back to back, belly to belly! LOL - No offense to my brothers and sisters but I don’t think I would go for that - If you have that many at a Bible study - time to start a church!
I imagine the attitudes here would be different if the meetings were for some other purpose. This is an issue of conducting commercial type activity in a residential setting. Not a religious issue. If my neighbor starts having groups of 50+ people over every week and it’s causing parking and other problems then I guess I’m going to turn socialist and vote to restrict said activities.
” time to start a church!”
Yeah! Seems to be the right answer!
“I cant imagine fitting 49 people in my home for a Bible study - I would imagine that a number of people such as this would cause localized parking and or noise problems but why not deal with that on a case by case basis and use the laws currently available!”
Hmm, perhaps you have not as yet raised teenagers? Have a pool party and/or yard party and see how fast the 49 head count is achieved, lol :)
If you have 50 people in a Bible study, it NEEDS to be broken up into 6 or 8 individual studies, to allow for growth.
Leaders need to be developed.
It needs to spread geographically.
Individuals need to participate, not just watch the same 3 or 4 people who like to hear themselves talk.
That makes it sound like a triple for big government liberals, but it's better than that from their perspective. They also get to trample private property rights, so America's enemies no doubt consider this evil law a home run.
In the interests of full disclosure: I have had more than 50 people at my home for religious meetings several times although not regularly. I am VERY picky about parking when that happens - I don’t like to annoy the neighbors even if it’s only a few times a year - but that is human decency and not a matter for government to meddle. This is not a church, although I have had perhaps 20 teens by the pool, 20 women in the kitchen area, and 20 men in the basement. They fit, they have a good time, and it provides a different and for some non-church going people more welcoming atmosphere than a church.
Note: A nearby church allows us to use their parking lot for those gatherings, and people walk or we shuttle them back and forth.
My house would not comforrtably hold 49 people but my neighbors can host as many people as they want, as long as they don’t block my drive way or hoop and holler all night.
Come to think of it, I doubt that there’s a house in my hood that could comfortably host 49 people.
I have gone past that - I was a patrolling tiger when they had a party - 25 years as a Security Officer had me well armed for that situation LOL. Poor kids didn’t get away with much. Oldest is almost 30 and is a great young man 25 year old still has aways to go but is getting there. I can remember encouraging kids to leave who were not invited but you had to have eyes in the back of your head - glad those days are gone :)
Not only does it stink for those that have Bible studies, but what about the poor teenagers having parties when their parents are out of town. Life sucks! (JK)
Heck, on Beer & Bible night we have at least 100.... Just kidding, but they do have a Beer & Bible study group in our area.
We were reprimanded by our housing association when we hit 85 people... Lot’s of room in the house but parking became a problem.
They should base occupancy limits on square footage, not housing units.
In an ordinary home, who has enough chairs to seat 50 people in different rooms, let alone one room? I guess you could do it if you had a large enclosed porch or a large finished basement and stored a supply of folding chairs. But parking would make it difficult for anyone else in the neighborhood to host even a small gathering at the same time.
And we’re talking about almost weekly according to this ordinance.
I think the restriction is reasonable and people can work around it for religious purposes. How about 25 people every week or over 49 twice a month?
Restaurants are usually more than happy to set aside a room for large groups on a regular basis because it’s good for business.
I am happy there are so many people coming to your studies. Still 85 is a reasonable sized church (I’m not into Mega churches). We used to stick to a max of 12 at weekly meetings just following the biblical example of making disciples but a monthly or bi-monthly get together outside of Sundays would be great!
Anyway bless you and keep on going!
We have a big backyard and pool. We used to have huge parties back there, also movie nights with an outdoor theatre screen. We have had over 80 people at a time back there and none of our neighbors cared.
There was a highly publicized story in Texas, I believe, in which the local town council used this type of law to shut down a church. I forget the exact details, but the owner of the place was put in jail due to these types of laws. I guess the upshot was that the town council passed these laws aimed at specific persons, not because it was a general problem.
“We have a big backyard and pool. We used to have huge parties back there, also movie nights with an outdoor theatre screen. We have had over 80 people at a time back there and none of our neighbors cared.”
LOL, same here. My trick was to inform and invite the neighbors. Thereby, the tendency to complain is greatly reduced, especially if they come over, even for an hour or two :)
Hah!!! I always invite the neighbors too. None of them have ever come but have never said a word. Our next door neighbor who I am sure gets most of the noise recently came over and begged us not to move. I said....even with our loud parties and such? Lol. He said.....you are the best neighbors, please don’t move. He was relieved when I told him we aren’t going anywhere. We were actually thinking about leaving the state but stuff happens.