– Freedom to gather freely annulled: City threatens to fine couple up to $500 every time friends come over for Bible study (NaturalNews, Sep. 25, 2011):
Chuck and Stephanie Fromm of San Juan Capistrano, Cal., have long enjoyed having their friends over for weekly dinner, fellowship, and a time of studying the Bible together. But according to a recent report from CBS 2 in Los Angeles, the city is not so pleased, as it considers such gatherings to be illegal.
Since more than three people typically come over to the Fromms house every week, the city claims the couple is violating a local ordinance, and must obtain a conditional use permit if it wishes to continue having guests on the property. But to obtain such a permit, the Fromms would have to jump through all the same regulatory hoops as a local business or church would have to, including conducting extensive traffic and environmental impact reports, making their home accessible to wheelchairs, and paying additional fees.
“We’re just gathering and enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. And we enjoy studying God’s Word,” said Stephanie Fromm to CBS 2, emphasizing the fact that she and her husband have done everything possible to make sure that the gatherings and presence of their guests are not a nuisance to nearby neighbors.
The city has already fined the Fromms twice for their weekly gatherings, however, having never even notified them prior to the first citation that they were in violation. The combined total of the two fines is $300, but if the couple continues to hold meetings without getting a conditional use permit, the fines could escalate to as high as $500 an incident.
“This is 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,” said attorney Brad Dacus of PJI to CBS 2.
In its defense, the city claims that having too many people at one’s residence is a nuisance, and that it obstructs street access and parking. But the Fromms have said they are careful to have their friends park in open areas, and have even set up cones to accommodate neighbors that do not want vehicles parked in front of their homes.
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