In 2009, San Diego County officials interrogated and threatened a pastor and his wife who were hosting a Bible study in their home. Their attorney, Dean Broyles, of The Western Center for Law & Policy, recounted the shocking encounter between the county employee and the pastor’s wife: “The county asked, ‘Do you have a regular meeting in your home?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say “Amen”?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say “Praise the Lord”?’ ‘Yes.'”
After questioning the couple, the representative informed them that their weekly meeting, averaging around 15 people, was against county regulations and because of it they faced a hefty fine. A few days later they received a written statement citing a violation of “unlawful use of land.” They were asked to “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit.” Over time, such a permit could cost thousands of dollars. The anonymous couple chose to submit a complaint to the county, explaining that enforcement of the regulation is in direct violation of their First Amendment right to religious freedom.
A few weeks back, friends of ours faced this same situation. Stephanie and Chuck Fromm have lived in their San Juan Capistrano house for 18 years, and recently received a notice of violation from the cityalong with a $300 fine for holding weekly Bible studies in their home. They were told they face an additional $500 fine per meeting if they continue without a Conditional Use Permit. Like the family from San Diego, the Fromm’s are not backing down; they plan to continue their weekly meetings and face the fines. “We’ll meet and they can charge us,” Chuck stated, clearly standing his ground. His wife Stephanie noted, “We’re not pot-stirrers. We are surprised and sad…we love our community. We will stand up for our faith and for the use of our home.”
There are times that the law of God must supersede the law of men. The early church met from house to houseand Christians spanning time and continents have continued to do so ever since. In Exodus 1, we read of a king interrogating two faithful Hebrew midwives and commanding them to abort all male children born to the Jews. But the women practiced civil disobedience, fearing God rather than man. As a result, the nation of Israel continued to thrivedespite one king’s command.
What do you do in the face of adversity against your faith? Deuteronomy 3:22 tells us, “You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you.” With God on your side, whom shall you fear?