I am not an alarmist, but this is frightening!
This story has me very concerned. As an American, I am concerned. As a Christian, I am concerned. As a minister of the Gospel, I am concerned. And as a former member of the military, I am concerned, because for thirty-four years I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Now it would appear that the domestic enemies are raising their ugly heads. Our Constitution is being threatened from within.
This past week in Southern California, a pastor and his wife were confronted by a San Diego County official threatening them with ever increasing fines if they continued to hold Bible studies in their home. That’s right! Bible studies! The pastor and his wife were questioned as to their activities: “Do you have a regular meeting in your home?” “Yes.” “Do you say ‘Amen’?” “Yes.” “Do you pray?” “Yes.” “Do you say, ‘Praise the Lord’?” “Yes.” About fifteen people attend the Bible studies. For this the County official says they are in violation of County regulations. What?
A few days later this pastor and his wife received a letter from the County warning them of their so-called “violations.” One violation is “unlawful use of land.” They were told in no uncertain terms to “stop religious assembly, or apply for a major use permit,” something that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Those of us called to the pastoral/preaching ministry already are concerned about the “Thought Police” and the politically correct crowd that is waiting to bring charges against preachers who say anything, from the pulpit or elsewhere, which could be loosely classified as “hate speech.” Now we’re told we can’t even get together with others of like faith to share in Bible study. This has a chilling effect.
The lawyer for the pastor and his wife had this to say, “If the County thinks they can shut down groups of 10 or 15 Christians meeting in a home, what about people who meet regularly at home for poker night? What about people who meet for Tupperware parties? What about people who are meeting to watch baseball games on a regular basis?” And I would add, “What about folks who have weekend barbeques with lots of people over?”
The overriding question and concern is: What about our Constitutional rights? In particular, what about our First Amendment rights? The right to free exercise of religion? The First Amendment, ratified by Congress in 1791, reads like this: “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.”
Here’s my take on the First Amendment and the points that pertain to this story.
First, Congress is not in the religion business, nor should it be.
Second, Congress is to keep their fingers out of the religious affairs of “we the people.”
Third, “we the people” have the right to peaceably assemble. When we do, Congress and other government bureaucracies need to keep their collective noses out of our business.
President Ronald Reagan said it better than anyone. In his now famous first inaugural address of January 1981, he said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government IS the problem.” And everybody said: Amen!
There is a growing disregard for our Constitution and the rights that have been purchased for us by the shed blood of American patriots. Do we simply allow the enemies of freedom to steal these precious gifts of freedom, liberty and rights from us without so much as a whimper of protest?
My prayer is that “we the people” will unite and say to our governing officials that we will not have our freedoms trampled on. The Declaration of Independence gives clear instruction to “we the people” as to what our right and our duty is when government gets out of hand. We are to “throw them off.”
Do not dismiss this case lightly. This pastor’s rights are being abused, and by proxy, he is all of us. This is a fundamental right that is being violated by a government official and the laws of the County that are clearly wrong. The eventual legal decision on this case may well have a profound impact on the rest of us.
Are you paying attention?