San Diego Requires Home Bible Study to Get Permit or Shut Down

This is truly outrageous. World Net Daily is reporting that a pastor has been holding a bible study of about 15 people at his house and a county government official knocked on their door to investigate and demand that they pay thousands of dollars for a permit to do so.

“Do you have a regular weekly meeting in your home? Do you sing? Do you say ‘amen’?” the official reportedly asked. “Do you say, ‘Praise the Lord’?”

The pastor’s wife answered yes.

She says she was then told, however, that she must stop holding “religious assemblies” until she and her husband obtain a Major Use Permit from the county, a permit that often involves traffic and environmental studies, compliance with parking and sidewalk regulations and costs that top tens of thousands of dollars.”

So I guess you can have an Oprah book club for free, but have to pay to have a Jesus book club? Absurd.

Reposting the whole article:

FAITH UNDER FIRE
Home: No place for Bible study
County demands pastor spend thousands on ‘Major Use’ permit to host friends
Posted: May 22, 2009
5:13 pm Eastern

By Drew Zahn
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

A San Diego pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a county official and warned they will face escalating fines if they continue to hold Bible studies in their home.

The couple, whose names are being withheld until a demand letter can be filed on their behalf, told their attorney a county government employee knocked on their door on Good Friday, asking a litany of questions about their Tuesday night Bible studies, which are attended by approximately 15 people.

“Do you have a regular weekly meeting in your home? Do you sing? Do you say ‘amen’?” the official reportedly asked. “Do you say, ‘Praise the Lord’?”

The pastor’s wife answered yes.

She says she was then told, however, that she must stop holding “religious assemblies” until she and her husband obtain a Major Use Permit from the county, a permit that often involves traffic and environmental studies, compliance with parking and sidewalk regulations and costs that top tens of thousands of dollars.

And if they fail to pay for the MUP, the county official reportedly warned, the couple will be charged escalating fines beginning at $100, then $200, $500, $1000, “and then it will get ugly.”

Dean Broyles of the Western Center for Law & Policy, which has been retained to represent the couple, told WND the county’s action not only violates religious land-use laws but also assaults both the First Amendment’s freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.

“The First Amendment, in part, reads, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,'” Broyles said. “And that’s the key part: ‘prohibiting the free exercise.’ We believe this is a substantial government burden on the free exercise of religion.”

He continued, “If one’s home is one’s castle, certainly you would the think the free exercise of religion, of all places, could occur in the home.”

Broyles confirmed the county official followed through on his threat. The pastor and his wife received a written warning ordering the couple to “cease/stop religious assembly on parcel or obtain a major use permit.”

“The Western Center for Law and Policy is troubled by this draconian move to suppress home Bible studies,” said the law center in a statement. “If the current trends in our nation continue, churches may be forced underground. If that happens, believers will once again be forced to meet in homes. If homes are already closed by the government to assembly and worship, where then will Christians meet?”

On a personal note, Broyles added, “I’ve been leading Bible studies in my home for 13 years in San Diego County, and I personally believe that home fellowship Bible studies are the past and future of the church. … If you look at China, the church grew from home Bible studies. I’m deeply concerned that if in the U.S. we are not able to meet in our homes and freely practice our religion, then we may be worse off than China.”

Broyles also explained to WND that oppressive governments, such as communist China or Nazi Germany, worked to repress home fellowships, labeling them the “underground church” or “subversive groups,” legally compelling Christians to meet only in sanctioned, government-controlled “official” churches.

“Therein lies my concern,” Broyles said. “If people can’t practice their religious beliefs in the privacy of their own homes with a few of their friends, that’s an egregious First Amendment violation.”

WND contacted a spokeswoman for San Diego County, who acknowledged the description of the incident seemed “bizarre,” but who was unable to locate the details of the account. She simply could not provide comment yet, she said, until she could become familiar with the case.

Broyles said the WCLP is nearly ready to file a demand letter with the county to release the pastor and his wife from the requirement to obtain the expensive permit. If the county refuses, Broyles said, the WCLP will consider a lawsuit in federal court.

Broyles also told WND the pastor and his wife are continuing to hold the Bible study in their home.

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Bible-Man or Jesus-Man?

As Tim Keller says, “Men are idol factories”. We are always falling in love with one created thing or another, and loving it more than the creator of the thing.

I have recognized that I do this with scripture.

The bible is genius! When I read that thing, after reading it for three decades, and make new connections or have some new insight, I truly love it. I am continually astonished at the wisdom that is contained in in, and wowed when implement some new practice of obedience and watch what happens. God was so smart when He wrote that thing.

But I also realized that I get so wowed with the text, and how actually ‘living’ it is, that I can seek exchanges with it over the God who wrote it.

I can become infatuated with the law and forget the law giver.

I think that this phenomenon is one that reformed believers should watch especially carefully for, as we tend to connect with God on an intellectual basis via scripture most frequently. It may be harder to notice if we begin to worship truth itself.

Terry Rayburn at Grace for Life offers me this good reminder:

One of the most important verses in all of the Bible is John 5:39…

Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of me”. The Pharisees and scribes were Bible scholars, but they missed the Messiah, Who was the Author.

I love the Bible. I love the Word of God. I believe it is all inspired (God-breathed) and “inerrant in the original”, and that we should let it “dwell in us richly”.

But having said that, here are four reasons why John 5:39 is such an important verse:

1. Relationship is more important than raw data. Dictionary definition of “Data”: Factual information, especially information organized for analysis or used to reason or make decisions. Jesus is not data. He is our Shield, Defender, Advocate, Savior, Lord, Brother, Friend, and Beloved. A relationship to Him is even more important than info about Him.

2. A Guide is more important than a Guidebook. Don’t think of the Bible as “The Owner’s Manual”, used for fixing up your life. See Jesus on every page, lovingly guiding as you walk this road of life arm in arm.

3. Life is more important than Lists. I love Bible lists as much as the next guy. The Kings of Judah, Wells of the Bible, Furniture of the Temple, etc. But Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) We can’t say, “He who reads the Bible every day, has life”. But we can say, “He who has the Son, has life”. (1 John 5:12)

4. Spiritual understanding is more important than scholarship. The “scholars” of the Jesus Seminar, or some Time Magazine article on who Jesus really was, are often blind. They are brilliant scholars, but “The natural [unregenerate, unsaved] man cannot understand spiritual things, for they are foolishness to him. He cannot understand them for they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

If we miss Jesus, then searching the Scripture is worse than worthless. It’s “always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the Truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). But if we search the Scriptures for Him, then we will know Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The bible is after all a created thing.

What It Really Means To Love Your Enemies

Clearly this man has fully embraced suffering and because of it, can truly love the evil men who drove him to his God.

Bless My Enemies O Lord
Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich was a Serbian bishop in the last century who spoke out courageously against Nazism until he was arrested and taken to Dachau.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to You may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.

Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

From Prayers by the Lake by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, published by the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of New Gracanica, 1999.