California pastor David Jones and his wife Mary Jones were questioned by San Diego County officials and threatened with fines over a weekly Bible study in their residence in Bonita, California, according to several news reports and televised interviews. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has offered to assist the couple or others facing the same situation in California or elsewhere in the U.S.
"San Diego County has brought KGB tactics to Southern California," said Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund. "Government agents have no place questioning American citizens about how they choose to worship in their own home."
Jones, who appeared on television interviews, claimed that county officers had asked his wife whether Jones said "Amen" or whether Jones said "Praise the Lord" during his 15-person weekly Bible Study. Then, according to several news reports, the family was given a warning to "cease and desist" their "religious gathering" until they are granted a "major use permit". Major use permits are designed for large assemblies such as movie theaters and auditoriums.
"Unfortunately this case is not all that unusual--local zoning apparatchiks across the country try to shut down home-based Christian bible studies and Jewish prayer meetings all the time. People of faith should know that federal civil rights law protects against this kind of government intrusion into matters of conscience, and the Becket Fund is ready to help."
In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA.) The Becket Fund brought the first lawsuit under RLUIPA in 2000 and has since then been involved in hundreds of RLUIPA lawsuits across the country. For more information on recent RLUIPA cases and the full text of the law go to www.rluipa.com.