Religion in Society

San Diego Apologizes for Threatening Bible Study Group

| by Baptist Press

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego officials have apologized and rescinded a cease-and-desist order after a pastor and his wife were told they would have to apply for a permit that could cost thousands of dollars if they wanted to continue hosting a small Bible study in their home.

"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, pastor of South Bay Community Church in National City, told Fox News.

According to its website, the church, which meets in a facility that was built in 1994, draws individuals from various ethnic backgrounds for an average attendance of 250 on Sundays. But it was the home Bible study that drew the county's ire.

Dean Broyles, an attorney for the couple, said the county official asked, "Do you have a regular meeting in your home?" "Do you say, 'Amen'?" and "Do you say, 'Praise the Lord'?"

Mary Jones, the pastor's wife, said before the resolution that Christians across the country should take note of their plight.

"The implications are great because it's not only us that's involved. There are thousands and thousands of Bible studies that are held 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."

In a letter to the Joneses and Broyles June 3, the county's chief administrative officer said the order was wrongfully issued and the county would conduct a review of its code enforcement officer training.

"Christians should not be punished simply for holding a Bible study in their home, so we are very encouraged by the county's response and their commitment to immediate corrective action," Broyles said. "We look forward to working with the county to ensure that the clarification of its ordinances and training of its personnel are implemented promptly and efficiently so that all citizens of San Diego can be assured that their constitutional rights are protected, whether they're holding Bible studies or hosting Boy Scout meetings.

"We are confident that, as a result of the county's statements, Bible studies and prayer meetings held in homes throughout San Diego County will be free from government regulation, as is guaranteed by the First Amendment," Broyles added.

© Copyright 2009 Baptist Press. All
Rights Reserved.