It's an all-too-familiar tale -- a local government declaring a home Bible study or church to be in violation of zoning laws. Often citing neighbor's complaints, parking and zoning restrictions, some local or county governments have moved to close down home fellowships across the country. The latest story to make headlines is concerning a San Diego pastor and his wife who have been told they cannot have a Bible study in their home. The couple says they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, and then they were threatened with fines if they refuse to stop the Bible study for their 15 attendees.
Pastor David Jones and his wife, Mary, were hosting the weekly study near their church, when they say they were visited by a county code enforcement officer. According to Dean Broyles, an attorney for the Joneses, they were questioned by the county official about the Bible study. "Do you have a regular meeting in your home?" The pastor's wife replied, "Yes." "Do you say 'amen'?" the official asked. "Yes," she replied. "Do you pray?" Again she said, "Yes." "Do you say 'praise the Lord'?" Another "Yes."
Unbelievably, the official told the pastor and his wife they were in violation of county rules.
Within days they received a written warning that listed the home Bible study an "unlawful use of land." They were notified to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit" -- a move that could cost the Bible study thousands of dollars.
Jones, his wife, and their attorney, Dean Broyles, were interviewed on the Fox News Channel. Broyles says the couple's rights have been violated.
"The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion," says the attorney. "And I believe that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves if they saw that here in the year 2009 that a pastor and his wife are being told that they can't have a simple Bible study in their own home."
The American Family Association has launched an online petition drive related to the incident, asking the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to immediately stop interfering with the rights of individuals to hold Bible studies in their homes.
Jones and his wife say they will continue to challenge the county's policy. If the County refuses to release the pastor and his wife from obtaining the permit, they will consider a lawsuit in federal court.
Watch local news coverage of this story from Channel 10 in San Diego.
Rediscovering God in America
Lou Engle of TheCall announces a special gathering in Virginia, the ReDiscovering God in America Event. This special gathering will take place at Rock Church in Virginia Beach on Thursday, June 4th and Friday, June 5th, 2009.
In what is being called TheCall To Action, Engle is gathering a movement of youth and young adults who, as he puts it, "refuse to succumb to this present darkness" and will "raise up the ancient foundations of righteousness and justice." Engle declares, "Let us gather to seek the Lord and rediscover the ways of God that could turn a nation back to his heart!"
Along with Engle, guest speakers for this dynamic event include Ron Luce, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, historian David Barton of Wall Builders, Lt. Col. Oliver North, and the Honorable Bob McEwen. Matt Gilman will lead worship for the meetings.
Newt Gingrich who is one of the featured speakers at this event writes, "There is no attack on American culture that is more destructive and more historically dishonest than the secular Left's relentless effort to drive God out of America's public square. I wrote Rediscovering God in America as a response to the 9th District Federal Court of Appeals' ruling that the phrase "one nation, under God" as part of the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional."
"The Rediscovering God in America Pastors' Policy Briefings goal is to ignite people of faith to again engage the culture and bring America back to our standing around the world as a Beacon of Hope and a Shining City on a Hill. Because God has entrusted you to care for one of His flocks, you are a critical component to reclaiming the centrality of God in American life. I look forward to seeing you in Virginia Beach."
For more information, go to http://www.meetingpro.com/event/
Rock Church International
640 Kempsville Road
Virginia Beach, Virginia, 23464 (map)
Print a copy of the ReDiscovering God in America flyer
More Prayer Resources on CBN.com
More from Craig von Buseck on CBN.com