A couple in San Diego County have been ordered by county officials to stop having friends over for a Bible study or face massive fines:
Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.
"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county." David Jones told FOX News.
"We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all," Jones said.
A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited "unlawful use of land," ordering them to either "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit," the couple's attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.
But the major use permit could cost the Jones' thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.
The Joneses understand the need to fight the order:
"The implications are great because it’s not only us that’s involved," Mary Jones said. "There are thousands and thousands of Bible studies that are held all across the country. What we’re interested in is setting a precedent here — before it goes any further — and that we have it settled for the future."
The couple is planning to dispute the county's order this week.
Of course, if they were just having some folks over to grill out this apparently wouldn't be a problem. Or maybe if they were having their weekly meeting of, say, Oprah's Book Club then no big deal. But say a prayer or pull out the Bible and clearly the state suddenly has an overpowering interest to stop it.
In a country with a guaranteed freedom of religion and freedom to assemble it's ought to shock and frighten us that both of those things suddenly can become illegal in our own homes.
UPDATE: County officials now appear to be backing down.
[Thanks to Beverly for the links]