One of our most cherished freedoms as Americans is the freedom to worship (or not worship) God as we choose. If we want to worship God at church, we’re free to do so. If we want to worship God at home, we’re free to do that, too.
And the government—federal, state, or local—can’t tell us where we can and can’t worship, right? Right?
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed an appeal Wednesday with the town of Gilbert’s zoning Board of Adjustment to overturn a decision banning churches from meeting, holding Bible studies, or having any other activities in private homes. The pastor of the seven-member Oasis of Truth Church received a cease-and-desist letter ordering him to terminate all religious meetings in his home, regardless of their size, nature, or frequency.
“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.”
It’s articles like this that make me wonder if freedom of religion is still alive in this country. If the government can keep you from worshiping God in your own house, what’s to stop it from keeping you from worshiping God at all?
The town contends that, under its zoning code, churches within its borders cannot have any home meetings of any size, including Bible studies, three-person church leadership meetings, and potluck dinners. 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. In fact, the zoning code explicitly allows some day cares to operate from homes.
Notably, the church only met for a few hours a week in members’ homes, and would rotate to different homes weekly. Further, the church was quite small, consisting of just seven adult members, including three married couples, and their four children.
So let’s clarify: Cub scout meetings are okay; rowdy, drunken football parties are okay; at-home day cares are okay; but Bible studies and prayer meetings with well under ten people are bad!
One has to wonder where the ACLU is in cases like these? Oh, that’s right: the people in this case are Christians, and the ACLU only gives two craps about you if your Jewish or Muslim or gay or anything other than a Christian.
Well, at least we have the Alliance Defense Fund.