This is a disturbing, if not unfortunately foreseeable, event. Apparently, county officials in San Diego have told a local pastor that he must have a permit for a weekly Bible study at his house. It only consists of 10-15 people. This is foreseeable for a few reasons: 1) we've confused our understanding of private property and permitting issues beyond belief; 2) there is a growing desire by government workers to gain additional revenue by any means possible; 3) there is growing hostility from government against religion; and 4) common sense is on life support.
What makes this development--admittedly a first, but something that will catch on because of reason No. 2, above--so frustrating is the total departure from our founding ideas. The concept of ownership of property, which includes beliefs according to James Madison, is gone from the government class. Government was instituted to protect our property. Now we seem to think government was instituted to regulate our property--turning our founding thoughts upside down.
It is also frustrating that this will be unequally applied, of course. In the article, the pastor asks some good questions about this novel, and silly, policy:
"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 support the Chargers?"
Those aren't questions the bureaucrats will likely answer. Instead, they are requiring the pastor to get an assembly permit (the policy has found a way to attack not one, but multiple parts of the 1st Amendment.) The permitting process can cost tens of thousands of dollars. I don't know about you, but my local Bible-study group couldn't afford that. Thus, religious groups will not be directly shut down, but will be indirectly shut down, or exist "illegally."
Part of this stems from most of the regulations being designed to apply to businesses--where $10,000 might be a do-able price to pay. That usually isn't the case for small churches and community groups. My church faces this issue a lot. It is a small church in a wealthy, over-regulated town. While it works for some of the major companies in town to play the regulation-city-hall-bureaucracy game, it is virtually impossible for us to do the same. This is made worse by the fact that main-line, larger, traditional churches--which are usually more established in the community, and wealthier--are decreasing, while smaller, start-up churches are growing.
If these sorts of regulations and interpretations--way more letter of the law than spirit with most city-hall types--don't change, churches everyone will start having to wrestle with how to apply the "obeying your government" commands with the need to "not forsake meeting together" command.
Tough times ahead.