The city of San Juan Capistrano, California, has fined a family for holding regular Bible studies in their home.
Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, who have been hosting Bible studies and other gatherings in their home since 1994, were cited for violating a municipal code which requires a conditional use permit (CUP) for religious, fraternal, or nonprofit organizations that meet in residential areas. The Fromms were fined twice for a total of $300. When they appealed to the city, they were informed that the violations would be upheld and that any future meetings without a CUP would face a fine of $500 each.
The code in question prohibits such groups of three or more people meeting without a CUP, said Chuck Fromm, who is the former president of Maranatha! Music and co-founder and editor of Worship Leader magazine.
"The law says any nonprofit or fraternal organization," he said. "If I'm having five guys over to watch Sunday football every week, that's a regular meeting of three or more people that would require a [CUP]. Now, have they cited anybody for that? No, they're citing a religious meeting."
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), who is now representing the Fromms, plans to fight to have the city apologize to the Fromms and refund their money, PJI president Brad Dacus said. The organization also hopes to have the policy revised.
"No family in America should ever have to worry about a local government fining them simply for meeting with their friends and family in their own home to read the Bible or pray together," Dacus said. "The city is demanding that this family has to pay money to the city in order not even to have a Bible study, but in order just to seek permission from the city to be able to have a Bible study. That is totalitarian, ...