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Senior Advisor

The nerve of those extremist thumpers

For years they have been told that if they want to pray then get to their homes and pray there. Now they are told that if more than 3 of them get together in a home to pray they have to pay money and make the place handicap assessable.

 

snip- An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.

That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.

The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI.

“We’re just gathering and enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. And we enjoy studying God’s word.” Stephanie Fromm told CBS2.

 

After city officials rejected the Fromms’ appeal, PJI, which represents other Bible study participants, will appeal the decision to the California Superior Court in Orange County.

“This is also about a city trying to get a family to pay fees – to pay fees and pay money to them – just to be able to have friends over to read the Bible,” attorney Brad Dacus of PJI told CBS2.

Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.

“The Fromm case further involves regular meetings on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons with up to 50 people, with impacts on the residential neighborhood on street access and parking,” City Attorney Omar Sandoval said.

The city of San Juan Capistrano was founded as a mission in the late 1700s by Catholic priest Junipero Serra, who established a local chapel that remains the oldest standing building in California.

Officials with San Juan Capistrano did not respond to requests for comment

 

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2011/09/20/oc-couple-threatened-with-500-per-meeting-fines-for-home-b...

21 Replies
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Senior Contributor

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers

Is it three people or, "The Fromm case further involves regular meetings on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons with up to 50 people, with impacts on the residential neighborhood on street access and parking.”

 

I'm just asking because it is unclear. What do you think?

 

Highlighted
Senior Advisor

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers

Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.

Highlighted
Senior Contributor

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers

This is why I live in Arkansas instead of California upscale towns.

 

I think the article lacks detail. Something seems to be missing from the story. Don't you think? It just does not make sense that the city would crack down like that with no complaints from the residence and this is an unlikely source of municipal income.

 

I believe in constitutional rights; freedom of religion and right to assembly. It's just that something seems uexplained in this story because people usually have motovations for what they do and it is hard to determone what motovation the city has in this case.

Highlighted
Senior Advisor

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers

It's the city's hunger for money and Christians are an easy target. This is how liberalism is spread and our freedoms are lost. Divide and conquer, exactly what Obama is attempting to do with his Buffett tax. Get the people to hate the rich as much as the Christian taliban.

Highlighted
Veteran Advisor

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers

All they had to do was go get the permit which probably cost next to nothing.

 

"Section 9-3.301 of the San Juan Capistrano code prohibits “religious, fraternal, or nonprofit organizations” in residential neighbourhoods without a Conditional Use Permit. This prohibition applies to “churches, temples, synagogues, monasteries, religious retreats, and other places of religious worship and other fraternal and community service organizations.” San Juan Capistrano has a reactive code enforcement policy, meaning that officers only respond to complaints."

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Senior Advisor

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers

They are not a church. They are friends who get together to study the Bible. They did what they have been told to do for years. They took their prayers out of public buildings, off the football fields, away from graduations, into their homes.

Highlighted

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers

No doubt the code also prohibits certain commercial uses in those zones. So if they were regularly holding Amway meetings that would be in violation also but of a different statute.

 

But they aren't, they're holding religious gatherings and were thus cited under the appropriate statute.

 

The only question here seems to be should religious gatherings receive different treatment? I don't know. How many is too many in that zone- 50, 500?

 

It isn't religious but I've seen this situation many times before. People start a home business and it grows. Eventually the traffic to their home becomes sufficient that somebody complains (sometimes it is a lot, sometimes it isn't it's a neighbor problem).  My take is, it is nice that you've got a going concern, good for you,  but there comes a time when it becomes appropriate to move the business to a commercial site. Sorry, it does involve more overhead but it is the nature of the thing.

 

Same thing- there comes a time when it is appropriate to rent a hall. I'm happy for them that they have such a successful meeting.

 

And if you think that somebody in the neighborhood isn't going to complain eventually, fergeddaboudit. Religious or commercial, somebody will.

 

An aside. I have a friend who is on the verge of waging war over the free use of a city park that he uses by an adjacent Catholic school. They conduct recess on the park and pay no fees for the use.The school is exclusive, i.e., can choose who to accept and charges fees. And pays no taxes as it is a religious instituion.

 

 He got POed when the cops were called because he was exercising on one end during recess- apparently it is a tacit thing that all adult males are chased off when the kids are at recess. This whole arrangement apparently is done wihtout a vote from the city council- just politcal powers that be have maintained the whole arrangement.

 

I told him, yes, you are right as rain on this but if you want to fight both the "protect out children" and the religion thing, be my guest. But I'd strongly advise that you not fight that fight unless you want to feel like Madeline Murray O'Hare and Pete the Perv rolled into one.

 

He's got a good head of steam going, though, I'm not sure he'll listen to me.

Highlighted
Senior Contributor

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers


@KNAPPer wrote:

This is why I live in Arkansas instead of California upscale towns.

 

I think the article lacks detail. Something seems to be missing from the story. Don't you think? It just does not make sense that the city would crack down like that with no complaints from the residence and this is an unlikely source of municipal income.

 

I believe in constitutional rights; freedom of religion and right to assembly. It's just that something seems uexplained in this story because people usually have motovations for what they do and it is hard to determone what motovation the city has in this case.


As I read it they hold regular meetings at least twice a week with up to 50 people.

Bylaw does not allow regular gatherings of over 3 people.

I would expect that 50 people would probably require more than 25 cars to get there so it would be quite evident that there was a regular meeting going on and in residential areas that I am familiar with would create quite a bit of traffic congestion.

I expect the by-law was created to control that type of problem.

It seems this story leans heavily on the point that 'christians' are being prevented from meeting in a home rather than the point that this is residential not approved public meeting place.

Would the reaction be the same if they had 50 people in to play poker twice a week OR what if it was a muslim meeting?

If they do not like the rules then change them but why have a rule if you do not enforce it?

Somewhere I read that the city has a policy of not enforcing that by-law unless they had a complaint first.

As I noted before many of the 'news' clips on this seem to lean heavy on the 'persecuting christians' theme as if they did not have to obey the law.

Highlighted

Re: The nerve of those extremist thumpers

Another thing about zoning- be very careful writing statutes because some day you might be called upon to actually enforce them.