Another Town Banns Home Bible Studies

Gilbert, AZ became next in what seems to be a series of small to large towns testing the ban on home Bible studies through the use of zoning restrictions.  However, more attentive news followers may remember that San Diego recently withdrew a similar complaint last year against a Pastor who was holding home Bible studies. We will see how this situation pans out. Here are the details.

In November of 2009 Pastor Joe Sutherland of Oasis church was submitted a written cease and desist letter from the zoning and codes office of Gilbert, AZ, after a group of seven adults were meeting in his home.  The order came not as a result of any complaints, but as a result of the zoning officer noticing signs announcing the Sutherland’s home Bible studies.  According to the zoning ordinance, no groups of more than two people may gather in a home for religious purposes, including three church members to discuss anything church or religious related, and yes, this includes studying the Bible.

As hard a time as I have wrapping my brain around this reality, imagine yourself as a World War II veteran reading this in the local paper.  Indeed it is hard to believe that in the United States there are communities that are coming to  agreement to ban people from meeting in homes privately for religious assembly.

Attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund are currently challenging this case, which is what has brought it into the public spotlight recently.

“Christian church groups shouldn’t be singled out for discrimination and banned from meeting in their own homes,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Daniel Blomberg. “The interpretation and enforcement of the town’s code is clearly unconstitutional. It bans 200,000 Gilbert residents from meeting in their private homes for organized religious purposes—an activity encouraged in the Bible, practiced for thousands of years, and protected by the First Amendment.”

What Americans should be noting is that the ACLU is not defending the rights of Americans in this case.  Certainly if there was an ordinance banning three or more transgenders from meeting in their homes and discussing their passion for cross-dressing, then the ACLU would be making this a national case. Why does the ACLU consistently refuse to defend the rights of Americans, unless those Americans are extreme left wing progressives?  I think the answer goes without saying.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys said that Gilbert authorities interpreted the zoning law to state that even three people groups from any religious organization could not meet in someones house for fellowship.  No word yet on whether or not this rules out one couple from church having another couple over for dinner.  I guess praying before the meal would definitely be ruled out?

Gibert City Planner Mike Milillo was quoted as saying, “The assembly activities associated with the church, including Bible studies, church leadership meetings and church fellowship activities are not permitted,”

“This ban is defended based upon traffic, parking, and building safety concerns. However, nothing in its zoning code prevents weekly Cub Scouts meetings, Monday Night Football parties with numerous attendees or large business parties from being held on a regular basis in private homes,” the Alliance Defence Fund said.

Essentially, the city NOW claims that it regrets the code, and the Mayors office issued a statement that it would like to see the code changed.  Those watching this case should ask themselves two questions, why would a zoning ordinance like this be permitted, and why would the national media, and groups like the ACLU be so willing to ignore this type of case?

In a world where KFC’s are producing Muslim Halal chain restaurants, certainly these types of ordinances are to be considered by ALL to be rediculous.

Meanwhile, Pastor Sutherland and his group are being forced to pay the city to rent the elementary school for their meeting space.

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~ by Bill Newman on March 13, 2010.

5 Responses to “Another Town Banns Home Bible Studies”

  1. Ridiculous! What is this world coming too…..don’t answer!

  2. Thankfully, this ‘ban’ has been rescinded. (http://bit.ly/b7G0YD).

    Now why some people keep tweeting links to this blog entry three weeks after the fact makes me wonder if people are just trying to stir up emotions.

  3. actually Brad, you are incorrect, at least according to the article that you link to, and according to every other source available. So far all the town has done has promised to “look into the matter”, while still upholding the ban. The council members are all, at this point, posturing that they do not like the ban, but no one has rescinded it yet, and they continue to disallow the Sutherland’s church to meet at his home. If you find another source to the contrary please let me know. Thanks.

  4. According the this article the Mayor ordered the town to stop enforcing the code until the issue has been resolved. If the ban on private assembly is rescinded, it won’t go into affect until June 4th. It appears this will go in the right direction.

    http://www.azcentral.com/community/gilbert/articles/2010/03/22/20100322religion0322-ON.html

  5. They are going in the right direction. Legislative bodies can’t just ‘throw a switch’ and enact or change ordinances. In this case, the ball is indeed rolling. The Planning Commission has release a Public Notice (http://www.gilbertaz.gov/boards/staffreports/planning/Z10-05pubnot-04-07-10.pdf), after which they’ll make a recommendation to the City Council, who will then vote to enact changes. They have their hoops they’re required to go through, and giving them the benefit of doubt here, they are doing the right thing.

    The only reason I commented in the first place is that someone on Twitter has tweeted several times over the past couple weeks declaring “Town Bans Bible Studies!!!” without mentioned the city’s position on non-enforcement and their efforts to change the rule. It just seems disingenuous to fan the flames of this issue at this point.

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