Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Outlawing Home Bible Studies

Feb 24, 2012

As the secular left state gets bigger, it seeks to sideline and neutralise any rival claimants to power. One great way to achieve this goal is to seek to eliminate all mediating structures. A mediating structure is any grouping that stands between the individual and the state.

There are many of these, including families, churches, corporations, unions, community groups, clubs, voluntary societies, and so on. They all put brakes on the urge to increase state power, and they help to empower individuals to pursue their dreams and maximise their liberties.

So as states grow stronger in power, they naturally see all such mediating structures as threats to the consolidation of even further power. This is of course true of all police states and totalitarian societies. But tragically this is becoming more and more true of many Western nations as well.

Increasingly the unchecked growth of Leviathan is crowding out and drowning out the individual as it displaces and replaces the mediating structures. Bit by bit such structures as the family and the church especially are being put under the boot of Big Government. And sadly it continues to get worse.

As Mark Steyn wrote recently, “The bigger the Big Government, the smaller everything else: In Sweden, expressing a moral objection to homosexuality is illegal, even on religious grounds, even in church, and a pastor minded to cite the more robust verses of Leviticus would risk four years in jail. In Canada, the courts rule that Catholic schools must allow gay students to take their same-sex dates to the prom. The secular state’s Bureau of Compliance is merciless to apostates to a degree even your fire-breathing imams might marvel at.”

Or as he put it in his important 2011 book, After America, “Freedom is messy. In free societies, people fall through the cracks – drink too much, eat too much, buy unaffordable homes, fail to make prudent provision for health care, and much else. But the price of being relieved of all these tiresome choices by a benign paternal government is far too high. Big Government is the small option: it’s the guarantee of smaller freedom, smaller homes, smaller cars, smaller opportunities, smaller lives.”

It is the smaller freedom I especially want to dwell on here, particularly religious freedom. All over the Western world religious freedoms are being whittled away. In the name of political correctness, equality, equal opportunity, anti-vilification, or even in the name of nothing at all, religion in general but Christianity in particular is coming under attack.

I have documented plenty of examples of this over the years. Here I just want to highlight two recent cases of what is effectively religious persecution and anti-Christian bigotry, all at the hands of the encroaching state. Both come from southern California and both have to do with home Bible studies.

Now I have been part of home Bible studies for decades, both in Australia and America, as would have millions of other people. But bit by bit this freedom to meet in a home for an informal time of worship, prayer and study of Scripture is being taken away from us.

The first example took place in May 2009 in San Diego. The story goes like this: “A San Diego pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a county official and warned they will face escalating fines if they continue to hold Bible studies in their home.

“The couple, whose names are being withheld until a demand letter can be filed on their behalf, told their attorney a county government employee knocked on their door on Good Friday, asking a litany of questions about their Tuesday night Bible studies, which are attended by approximately 15 people. ‘Do you have a regular weekly meeting in your home? Do you sing? Do you say “amen”?’ the official reportedly asked. ‘Do you say, “Praise the Lord”?’ The pastor’s wife answered yes.

“She says she was then told, however, that she must stop holding ‘religious assemblies’ until she and her husband obtain a Major Use Permit from the county, a permit that often involves traffic and environmental studies, compliance with parking and sidewalk regulations and costs that top tens of thousands of dollars. And if they fail to pay for the MUP, the county official reportedly warned, the couple will be charged escalating fines beginning at $100, then $200, $500, $1000, ‘and then it will get ugly.’

“Dean Broyles of the Western Center for Law & Policy, which has been retained to represent the couple, told WND the county’s action not only violates religious land-use laws but also assaults both the First Amendment’s freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. ‘The First Amendment, in part, reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”,’ Broyles said. ‘And that’s the key part: “prohibiting the free exercise.’” We believe this is a substantial government burden on the free exercise of religion.’ He continued, ‘If one’s home is one’s castle, certainly you would then think the free exercise of religion, of all places, could occur in the home’.”

Talk about draconian, heavy-handed nonsense. There is no reason whatsoever for such discriminatory policies. Is the state also cracking down on bingo games held in homes? What about groups of Muslims gathering together in private residences: are they also experiencing such a crackdown?

The second example of this occurred in September 2011 and comes from a city about 100 kms north of San Diego. One report of this begins as follows: “In Orange County, California, it is illegal to hold a religious meeting in your home. This is what Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, discovered when they were fined $300 earlier this month for holding a Bible study class on their property.

“Officialdom in the county said the couple were singled out because it is considered illegal to hold ‘a regular gathering of more than three people’ on private property. Officials stated that the Fromms require a license to hold meetings in their home. San Juan Capistrano authorities claim home Bible study is not allowed because it is a ‘church,’ and churches require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) in residential areas.

“The Fromms face additional fines of $500 per meeting for any further ‘religious gatherings’ in their home, according to the Pacific Justice Institute. The city’s action is a brazen violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees free worship without government intervention.”

A video clip of a TV news item about this ridiculous case can be seen here:

One case may just be a nuisance, but two is a real worry, and there would be more such cases. If this madness continues, we will find the beginnings of the underground church being established in the so-called free West. In places like China it has existed for decades, but things have come to a really bad place if they will need to emerge in places like America.

Religious freedom is far too important to let go of without a fight. Let these overseas cases be a warning to us all. We can lose it all here just as easily if we are not vigilant and not willing to stand up for what is right. If we don’t we might as well just start closing down the churches ourselves.

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15 Responses to Outlawing Home Bible Studies

  • The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance. I guess folks either don’t value their freedom any more or they have not been vigilant – or both.
    What clearer message do people need to have that what happened in Russia is about hit them also? Maybe they will only believe it when they and their loved ones are marched off to the Gulag. Even then they might not believe it.

    David Skinner, UK

  • You are so right Bill – the writing is on the wall.
    Look what is happening right now in Canada – they are seven years ahead of us in legalizing gay marriage in 2005, and consider what is happening today.

    Annette Williams

  • Thanks for exposing this, Bill. I wonder if it’s also illegal for 15 people to live in a large house together? There is absolutely no justification for this, but governments are not needing justifications any more it seems, since it is getting harder and harder to get the person we want voted into power. Those of us who have a clue on politics that supports the Christian sector need to educate and disseminate information to the vast majority who don’t (have a clue). Beyond that, what we really need most is divine intervention. Christians need to pray in unison for the downfall of Gillard and Rudd and all other ungodly government in this nation. Who knows but that if we could repent of our apathy and plead with God for mercy, we may be spared the worst of what is coming.
    Dee Graf

  • Hi Bill,
    Just reading this sentence alone is interesting.

    “Officialdom in the county said the couple were singled out because it is considered illegal to hold ‘a regular gathering of more than three people’ on private property”

    I am asking the obvious questions here. So what about people having parties or diner gatherings every weekend? A rock group who might meet once a week for band practice? I could go on. I mean what is it to these authorities if someone what’s to have a dinner bible study gathering? Have these people got nothing better to do?

    What of Sweden’s laws with its moral objection to homosexuality being illegal, would that be the start of introducing other laws too to limit freedom. I can use Germany’s laws that I have heard being a holocaust denier is also illegal. While I think the deniers are wrong, their views can be dismissed on the academic, scholarly and historic level; don’t the German authorities or anyone realize that this is creeping Fascism and that they are no better than the Nazi’s and the communist before them? What is happening? Why can’t they see they are becoming the evil despots that their grandparents thought against to give them the freedoms they now enjoy?

    Carl Strehlow

  • It is cases like these that remind me of why I want limited government. In the end, the world and Satan aren’t at work in government to squash non-Christians – they are after the church and it is time that Christians start realising that the state isn’t the solution to our problems.

    Unfortunately, when things don’t go in a fashion we like, most Christians (in my experience) ask the state to intervene, which is like the turkey asking for help from the farmer at Thanksgiving – backing the one who will cut our throat.

    Lee Herridge

  • Annette above already mentioned this, but it is worth repeating. For more on how the ever-growing state is warring against faith and family, see here:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • For tyranny to be successful, the family has to be demolished. The idea is to remove any semblance of group support thus making everyone dependent upon the State. To do this, religion, especially Christianity has to be wiped out completely, as Christians are to be totally dependent on God and not the State. If children are not part of the traditional family unit, then they never learn of a God who is almighty and able to deliver them from evil. Instead, they have to be taught that what is now regarded as evil, is, in fact, good. We are in a war against Satan and demons and we will need all our faith and courage (we can receive this from our God) to stand up and fight for the sake of the next generation.
    Joan Davidson

  • Yes quite so Joan.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Bill, I knew that is the law in Saudi Arabia. What is the State of California trying to do? Are family gatherings for birthday parties allowed? Perhaps the State of California is so broke, they have to think of creative ways to raise money.
    Regards, Franklin Wood

  • Last Saturday a ‘March for Mary’ took place in the CBD (Melbourne). This is an annual event. A young Missionary of God’s Love seminarian who took part in the march was attacked by two women who hit him in the face. He is OK but it was rather a shock.

    If those who oppose religion believe they are right, why are they such an angry lot? One only has to listen to them rant and rave at the march for babies to see the difference between those who believe and those who don’t. Happy little Vegemites – no way.

    Madge Fahy

  • When one puts all the pieces of the jig saw puzzle together, the prognosis no longer looks like probability but a certainty. The industrial scale of abortion; the giving schoolgirls surgical contraceptive implants, abortions, and soon sterilization, without parental permission or knowledge in order to stop teenage pregnancies; teaching school girls that the worst thing that can happened to them is to be tied to children and creating home; state sponsored pornography being shown to school children as part of the curriculum; promiscuity of all tastes and proclivities being promoted as a child’s right; the massive rise in sexually transmitted diseases; the economic cost in terms of health treatment; litigation; legislation and the shutting down of all providers of goods and services that do not conform to cultural Marxism – and that includes the family – when we view all this we are watching the physical death of our families and ultimately our nations.

    Only one section of society is seemingly strong and cohesive enough in their family ties and sufficiently protected by the state not to have to conform to the pattern of the surrounding culture and that is Muslims. Whatever Western nation one views, we see the population rising; but it is not that of the indigenous, host nation. In ten, twenty years, or thirty years Islam will have out -bred and outvoted us. Come Shariah. Come.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Not even Russia (or Germany that was the other side of the same Hegelian coin) went so far in pushing Marxism to its logical conclusion, as is the West today, with such breath taking speed. This is surely something new where history has not repeated itself.
    Linda Kimball wrote in 2007:
    ‘In the pre-Stalinist Soviet Union, Bolshevik religious fanatics — believing they were “scientific high-priests” endowed with “God-like” creative powers — literally attempted to scientifically re-engineer not only a New Man but a polymorphously perverse Kingdom of this World where androgynous beings could move fluidly into and out of sexually-gratifying relationships. Before they could begin this monstrously inhuman project, Marxists first had to deconstruct both man and his existing culture.

    Nihilism in the Name of “Science — Amen!”
    The first order of business was to ‘exorcise’ God, Creator of the Universe. This they attempted to do by declaring a ‘separation of church and state.’ “The Bolsheviks took power in 1917 and declared a separation of church and state. Thus the Russian Orthodox Church found itself without official state backing for the first time in its history.” (

    Abolishing the ‘oppressive’ traditional family came next. Toward this end, universal moral law was tossed aside, wives and mothers were forced into factories, abortions made free, and divorces attained within minutes. Catastrophe ensued: “When the Bolsheviki came into power in 1917, they regarded the family … with fierce hatred and set out … to destroy it. One must live in Russia today, amid the atmosphere of torment, disgust, and disillusionment that pervades sex relations, the chaos, uncertainty, and tragedy that hover over the Russian family … Some men have twenty wives, living a week with one, a month with another … Abortions cover our villages with shame. Formerly we did not even hear of them.” (The Russian Effort to Abolish Marriage, by a Woman Resident in Russia; Atlantic Monthly, Vol.138, No.1, pp 108-114, July 1926).

    Bolsheviks ‘liberated’ thousands upon thousands of hapless children from their ‘oppressive’ families. Taking control of schools, they filled the heads of children with worthless propaganda and perverse ‘sex education.’ Additionally, they told them God is dead and they had evolved from fish. Children were psychologically (spiritually) manipulated into not only turning against their own families, but into spying upon them as well. The consequences of this evil were enormous. Families and culture were devastated; children’s lives were destroyed as the became child rapists, murderers, thieves, bullies, and outright sociopaths.
    ‘Equality’ (sameness) was created between “natural intercourse” and the paraphilias, including sodomy. “Concerning … sodomy, and various other forms of sexual gratification, which are set down in European legislation as offenses against public morality — Soviet legislation treats these the same as so-called ‘natural intercourse’.” (Soviet Union in the 1920s: Scientific, Not Utopian)

    Like falling dominoes, the collapsing family led to the fall of social order, culture, and then the economy, unleashing a tidal wave of crime, corruption, sexual debauchery, and chaos. When Stalin came to power, he took immediate steps to restore order. The family and ethics were restored, abortion and divorce made difficult to obtain, and sodomy, gender-bendering, etc. were re-criminalized. In taking these steps, Stalin destroyed the Bolshevik’s ‘revolution,’ for which they hate him to this day.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thank you Bill for pointing out another piece in the puzzle, a tool in the arsenal of those who want to not ony destroy the family, but life itself. So, in the west where they can’t just turn up and arrest you for holding a bible study, they try it through financial strangling, the outright arrests will come later as public dummmification and deception has further progressed, but now it”s making families, communities, Christians poor, so they can’t do anything. Insurance is another one of their tools. So many small community groups are no longer able to meet because they can’t afford the insurance premiums. Even as a busker I am supposed to have public liability insurance. Of course selfishness feeds right into all that, after all it is the selfish person who abuses their “right to claim” that can be blamed for all this shutting down of people being able to meet and interact in public, not the deliberate plans of the “statists” that is behind it.
    That makes sense, thanks for sharing, Bill.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • I noted where it is illegal to have more than 3 people meet in one’s home in Orange County California. Most homes would have more than that at any time wouldn’t they? So if they were having a Birthday Party or Christmas lunch etc.,they could not invite family members or friends. I suppose though if non Christians were having a party with alcohol, drugs, loud music and all that goes on,it would be okay.
    Keep telling us about these things Bill.
    Thank you.
    Gloria Gaske.

  • Thanks Gloria

    Yes I sure will keep at it, and keep speaking out.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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