Free Markets, Free People

What part of “freedom of assembly” don’t San Juan Capistrano officials understand?

I swear this country gets more and more totalitarian as the days go by.  Try this one on for size:

An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.

That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.

The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI.

“We’re just gathering and enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. And we enjoy studying God’s word.” Stephanie Fromm told CBS2.

A) What freaking business is it of  the city’s to begin with?

B) It doesn’t matter if they gather every day.  If it is voluntary, in a private home and they’re not disturbing anyone or violating anyone’s rights, what business is it of the city?

C) Where does the city get off requiring permits to gather at a private residence?

D) In case you missed it in A, what freaking business of the city, especially in light of the 1st Amendment guarantee?

Who someone chooses to peacefully assemble – especially in a private home – is none of the damn city’s business.  Does this make the weekly poker game an event that requires permits.  How about the weekly gathering at the neighbor with the big screen tv to watch football?

This is utter nonsense on a extraordinarily intrusive scale.  It isn’t about what they’re doing (bible study, poker, football) but that the city has taken it upon itself to invent some permitting nonsense that puts them in jeopardy legally.

Absurd – but there it is.

You have to wonder what part of this the folks in city government don’t understand:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Seems pretty clear to me.  And yes, I recognize we’re not talking about Congress here, but this is a right that has since been incorporated so that we all have it and government in general is prohibited from violating these rights.

Says the city:

“The Fromm case further involves regular meetings on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons with up to 50 people, with impacts on the residential neighborhood on street access and parking,” City Attorney Omar Sandoval said.

Oh, I see.  That is all it takes to abrogate the 1st Amendment guarantee.  Temporarily impacting “on street access and parking”.  Yup, inconvenience others and you’re guaranteed rights are kaput.  Gone.  Out the window, or to use today’s favorite phrase, under the bus.

Of course the fact that it is an invented excuse only adds to the nature of the folly:

Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.

Or, as one can conclude, it’s a naked show of power by the city to exert control in something they have no freaking business being involved.

The little totalitarians are as dangerous as the big ones.  It is from the little ones – who are able to get away with this sort of nonsense – that the big one’s grow.  We need to stomp them out (metaphorically speaking) when they’re small.


Twitter: @McQandO

25 Responses to What part of “freedom of assembly” don’t San Juan Capistrano officials understand?

  • I loved this part:
    fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”
    Sounds like an old fashioned method used by less than friendly governments to keep people discussing the events of the day without a ‘party’ handler. I have read about laws like this in my history books I think. These things never turn out well if they are not nipped in the bud. I am so glad I don’t live in California.

  • It is a nearly universal human trait to tend to abuse power.
    The ONLY way to keep it from happening is to PUSH BACK HARD EVERY TIME YOU SEE IT HAPPEN.
    Every day brings you new proof of the brilliance of the Constitution…if we can hold to it.

  • Not enough information here Bruce. 50 people is a lot. If they are regularly blocking the street in some way and actually conversing with your neighbor has failed. A call to the city might well have been in order. Need more information.

  • One has to wonder if they were aiming towards Mecca when they prayed if anything would have been said by the city.   Well, perhaps you don’t wonder, but I do.

  • Why metaphorically?  I am of the opinion that tin plated dictators like this need to occasionally be tarred and feathered.

    • I used to be in favor of that.  The I watched the “John Adams” miniseries in which a British tax official was tarred and feathed.  It is apparently a VERY painful and sometimes lethal process.

      So, I’m even more in favor of it.

  • It’s simple.  Sue the city and city officials of San Juan Capistrano for $500 billion in federal court for your loss of civil rights.
    This will be settled by tomorrow afternoon.

  • josh b is right.  We don’t know enough yet.
    This reminds me of our neighbors down the street. They have these clan gatherings of at least 40 people once a month, sometimes more.  They get rowdy, light bonfires, children and animals in the street blocking the road, etc.  Now I’m all for a good party, but be reasonable.
    I’m inconvenienced by these parties on a regular basis.  But I live with it, it’s not that bad.  So I have to slow down and wait for the shoeless rug-rats to get out of the way – Big deal – I don’t cause a fuss.  But I live down the road, not next to them or across the street from them.  I can only imagine.
    Now, exchange “clan party” with “church gathering” and see what you think.  Do these neighbors not have a right to a reasonably peaceful neighborhood?

    • There are disturbing the peace and other laws for what you describe.
      You also completely fabricated a scenario that is inconsistent with the likely tenor of a ‘bible study group’ with absolutely no basis.  Why not accuse them of running a brothel while you’re at it.
      And didn’t you really mean ‘klan party’?

      • The point of the scenario was to illustrate the possibility of a persistent nuisance.
        As I said, we don’t know enough about this particular story.  If this bible study wasn’t within reason bothering anyone, then I see no problem with it.  However, that may not be the case.
        The story suggests that there are fifty people gathering in a neighborhood setting twice per week.  Let’s assume that fifty people translates to twenty-five couples with twenty-five cars.  Even a large lot with a big driveway wouldn’t handle but a fraction of the parking needs.  Therefore, it is safe to assume that many of these vehicles need to park on the road.  An event like this taking place every once-in-a-while wouldn’t be a big deal.  But twice a week, every week… After a while, that would bother even the most tolerant of neighbors.
        Most likely, this result is from a complaint from one or more of their neighbors.  Not from some kind of bureaucratic persecution of Christians or anyone else wanting to gather.
        There are reasonable limitations to the right to assemble.
        Let’s take this a bit further, shall we?  Let’s say that you want to have a 25 guest football party on any given Sunday.  But your neighbor’s study group takes up every available parking on the street every Sunday!
        Let’s say that every one in this bible study invites one person themselves, doubling the number.  At what point does one’s right to hold an assembly intrude on another person’s own property rights?
        Again, if these people are not representing a persistent nuisance, then I would share your outrage.  But most likely, fifty people and the vehicles that bring them, gathering in a neighborhood twice a week every week, does represent a persistent nuisance.  And asking them to stop it is not unreasonable.
        But I understand.  The smell of big bad government trampling on someone’s constitutional rights, and a Christian’s constitutional right especially, just might prove too irresistible for some of you to stop and think about it.
        And btw, I do mean “clan” in the context that my neighbors down the road have an extended family here in Fort Bend County.  They know everyone and everyone knows them.  And in fact we are lucky to have them as neighbors, despite their blocking the road once or twice a month.  They are very nice people willing to help out their friends, family, and neighbors if need be.  Which maybe why their neighbors tolerate the inconvenience.

    • I also am annoyed by large gatherings of people. Why, whenever I drive by the Capitol building there are often groups of unkempt folk waving unsightly banners and chanting about getting out of Vietnam Iraq Afghanistan. Can’t we do something about these eyesores? Perhaps ban these gatherings and thus bring calm and quiet to our city.

  • josh b50 people is a lot. If they are regularly blocking the street in some way and actually conversing with your neighbor has failed. A call to the city might well have been in order. Need more information.

    There is something to be said about this.  I’m in favor of freedom of religion as much as the next guy (well, much more if the next guy is a lib), but my property / privacy rights also have some merit.  If, as josh b and PogueMahone write, people are blocking the roads, making a lot of racket, or otherwise disturbing my peace, then there’s a problem and government intervention may be required if the people cannot work things out between themselves.

    However, based on what is known, it seems as though these folks have been holding a small, quiet Bible study that explicitly HASN’T been bothering their neighbors.  Therefore, the city really seems to have overstepped and somebody needs to be smacked down.

    If the Fromms had the resources, it would be amusing if they had the mayor and other city officials shadowed… and call the cops on them the moment that they have more than three guests in their houses for any reason.  Good for the goose, good for the gander.

  • People have gone nuts!

  • It’s not a noise or traffic issue – as the article states, there seems to be a law against the regular gathering of three or more people.  How could this law even get on the books ?

    • Well a law against ‘more than 2 people’ would violate the notion of lawful assembly.  ‘More than 3 people’ is just a Regulation.

  • “That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.”
    Typical, it’s about revenue, and bet yourself that some nosy asswipe who doesn’t like ‘fundamentalist Christians’ has their fat little fingers stuck in this pie somewhere.

    • Yep.  That pretty much nails it.
      If they were meeting to plan their next anarchist agitprop, nobody would be messing with them…except maybe for the geld.

  • Change it to a “Koran study group” and watch the city officials knock you grandmother over, running for cover.
    BTW, The Book of Revelations predicted this would happen two thousand years ago. For this is certainly looking like the end times.