Late last week, the news was that a Bible study in San Diego county was trying to be shut down by county officials; holding a religious assembly without a permit. 

Apparently after some notoriety, the county backed down.

Sweeping issues of religious freedom and governmental regulation are swirling around Pastor David Jones’ house in rural Bonita, attracting attention from as far away as China and New Zealand.

He says it all started with $220 in car damage.

Jones and his wife, Mary, hold a weekly Bible study at their home that sometimes attracts more than 20 people, with occasional parking issues. Once, a car belonging to a neighbor’s visitor got dinged.

David Jones paid for the damage, but he thinks the incident spurred a complaint to the county.

A code enforcement officer warned the couple in April for holding a “religious assembly” without a permit. The action became an international incident when it was reported last week on the Web site

The Joneses assert that the county’s action violates their rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. Their story was picked up by conservative Web sites for days, then made it to CNN yesterday.

Barraged by hundreds of complaints, San Diego County officials backed down yesterday from their enforcement.

The whole story about this originally being just an issue with traffic control seems at odds with the initial treatment the pastor got when visited by the county.  Sounds more like a cover story to paper over a little overzealousness.

Dean Broyles, president of the Western Center for Law & Policy, a nonprofit organization in Escondido that supports religious liberty, is representing the Joneses. He said traffic issues were not raised when the code enforcement officer first visited the Joneses in response to the complaint. The warning itself does not mention traffic or parking problems.

“Even though the county is saying it’s about traffic and parking, it’s a fake issue. It’s a fabricated issue,” Broyles said.

According to Broyles, the code enforcement officer asked a series of pointed questions during her visit with the Joneses – questions such as, “Do you sing?” “Do you say ‘amen?’ ” “Do you say ‘praise the Lord?’ ”

Wallar said the county is investigating what questions were asked and in what context. She said a code enforcement officer does have to ask questions about how a place is being used to determine what land-use codes are applicable.

“Our county simply does not tolerate our employee straying outside what the appropriate questions are,” Wallar said.

Including not asking questions about the actual issue at hand?  Indeed.

Anyway, just some good news to start your week.

Filed under: ChristianityGovernmentReligion

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