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The Right to Gather

With the thoughtful responses from the many people who have shared their feelings of interest and even shock at the treatment a Bible study held at the house of Chuck and Stephanie Fromm in San Juan Capistrano, California, Chuck has dedicated his personal blog to the activity of cutting through the legal language and trying to help people understand the heart of what is happening

On CBS 2 News in Los Angeles

(CBS2) San Juan Capistrano Couple Fined For Hosting ‘Illegal’ Bible Study / OC Couple Threatened With $500-Per-Meeting Fines For Home Bible Study

City With Religious Roots Fines Home Bible Study

City With Religious Roots Fines Home Bible Study A city in Southern California is demanding that a small home Bible study group stop meeting unless they obtain a cost-prohibitive permit. The homeowners, Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, were fined $300 for holding the Bible study. Mr. Fromm appealed the ruling to the City of San Juan Capistrano, which was founded as a mission in the late

New Song the Sound of Spiritual Awakening

New Song the Sound of Spiritual Awakening (.PDF)

Chuck Fromm on the Radio

On September 19, Chuck had the chance to chat on the air with KKLA’s (95.5) Frank Pastore about the fines on their Bible study. listen to it here: Frank Pastore Show 2011_09_19 Other episodes can be found here: Frank Pastore Show Notes: Brad Dacus, President of the Pacific Justice Institute (pacificjustice.org), is representing Chuck & Stephanie Fromm, who were fined $300 by the city of San Juan

Bible Study Couple Drops Case Against City

Bible Study Couple Drops Case Against City (The Capistrano Dispatch)

The San Juan Capistrano couple who were cited for hosting Bible studies at their home dropped their case against the city this week.

Chuck and Stephanie Fromm and San Juan Capistrano City Manager Karen Brust announced Friday that the couple’s appeal of the citation in Orange County Superior Court had been resolved.

The Fromms were cited twice this year after a neighbor complained about parking and traffic impacts from the Bible studies. The city followed with fines and a requirement that the couple apply for a conditional-use permit.

As news spread about the city’s decision to issue citations, impose fines and add requirements, the city — home to Catholic Mission San Juan Capistrano — received international backlash. Hundreds of letters of protest, from as far as Australia and throughout the United States, were sent to the city.

This week, the Fromms dropped their appeal when the city initiated discussions to review their permit policies for home meetings of all types, according to a news release from the city. The original fines have been reversed and the Fromms reimbursed, the release said.

“I expect —and prefer — any remaining issues will be resolved by community dialogue and policy correction rather than through the courts,” Chuck Fromm said in the release. “My wife and I will remain vigilant throughout the process.”

Capistrano’s executive staff will start discussions November 22 before the Planning Commission on the city’s zoning codes and public assembly regulations, “given that the city does not prohibit Bible studies and believes in the right of all its residents to exercise First Amendment freedoms.”

“Protecting the rights of the city’s residents is paramount,” Karen Brust said in the release.

Stephanie Fromm said in the statement that she and her husband love living in San Juan.

“(We) are so glad that our city officials are willing to move forward on this issue and do the hard work of creating fair and equitable policies, while respecting public safety and eliminating discrimination for all home gatherings,” she said.

 

On ABC News

On KABC-TV 7 San Juan Capistrano couple fined for holding bible studies (9/29/11) – with video footage of home

On ABC News California Family Fined for Bible Study in Home (9/22/11)

interview on KMJ radio in Fresno

On KMJNOW news talk radio in Fresno, California, Inga Barks interviewed Chuck Fromm – listen to podcast starting at 37:15 –

Inga Barks 9.26.11

Report on CBN News

Featured on CBN News, “Couple Fined For Bible Study, Calls It Persecution” — watch the video below and read text of article at CBN.

“God’s in charge of the outcome.. I never expected this… where we’re at now. [This] worldwide awakening to freedom and the importance of it.” ~ Chuck Fromm

Also, you can listen to the full 12-minute interview —

On CBS 2 News in Los Angeles

(CBS2) San Juan Capistrano Couple Fined For Hosting ‘Illegal’ Bible Study / OC Couple Threatened With $500-Per-Meeting Fines For Home Bible Study

Chuck Fromm on the Radio

On September 19, Chuck had the chance to chat on the air with KKLA’s (95.5) Frank Pastore about the fines on their Bible study.

listen to it here: Frank Pastore Show 2011_09_19

Other episodes can be found here: Frank Pastore

Show Notes:

Brad Dacus, President of the Pacific Justice Institute (pacificjustice.org), is representing Chuck & Stephanie Fromm, who were fined $300 by the city of San Juan Capistrano for holding a “regular religious meeting” in their home and would need a CUP before doing it again.  They were cited in May for holding a Sunday morning Bible Study that drew about 40 people, many of them former members of Calvary Chapel Capo Beach, and Chuck Smith, Jr. has been leading the Bible Study.  The arbitrary enforcement of this bad ordinance is egregious and needs to be changed.  They were told they would be fined $500 for each additional gathering.  They go to Orange County Superior Court in October.

(Starting at 16:35) Chuck Fromm, former president of Maranatha Music, editor of Worship Leader magazine.

The Right to Gather

Chuck & Stephanie Fromm at their San Juan Capistrano home

With the thoughtful responses from the many people who have shared their feelings of interest and even shock at the treatment a Bible study held at the house of Chuck and Stephanie Fromm in San Juan Capistrano, California, Chuck has dedicated his personal blog to the activity of cutting through the legal language and trying to help people understand the heart of what is happening in his home and community. There we will keep you up to date on communications that come in that bring clarity and light to the issue.

The Issue
Certainly there are codes and rules and citations (those will be linked and discussed in subsequent posts), but what is the heart of the matter? That’s what we want to share here. For us and for the millions of others like us, it is the right to gather.

Let’s put it this way. For the past five years Stephanie Fromm has been moved by the Beth Moore DVD ministry, so she has made it a practice to share it with her friends in her home once a week in the afternoon. It’s a small affair; sometimes there are three people, four people, but never more than six. They sit together in her living room, watch the video from whichever series they are on as they flip through their notebooks. They take some time to discuss the topic and then … they pray together—pray for one another.

As things stand today, if Stephanie invites her friends to her house this Wednesday afternoon to pray or continue the series, she is breaking the law.

Shocked? Hopefully you are.

Background
This is the reality that the Fromms are currently facing. And it is particularly wounding because gathering to pray with others in their community is deeply important to them. It is an outlet for their deepest personal beliefs and how they care for the people in their lives. In terms many of you would understand, it is their ministry. Maybe you can relate.

Where did all of this start?

The problems came when the regular Bible study that the Fromms held on Sunday mornings in their home was issued a citation for meeting regularly without a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). The Sunday morning study gathers anywhere from 20 to 50 people on a given week. It’s a contemplative service, so there is no noise pollution, and there is ample parking space along the hill approaching the Fromm house.

This is from a recent press release on the issue:
The homeowners, Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, were fined $300 for holding the Bible study. Mr. Fromm appealed the ruling to the City of San Juan Capistrano, which was founded as a mission in the late 1700s and is home to California’s oldest building still in use, a chapel where Father Junipero Serra celebrated mass. Fromm was told by a hearing officer that regular gatherings of more than three people require a conditional use permit. Officials also stated that further religious gatherings in the home would be subject to a $500 fine per meeting. The City eventually rejected the appeal and Pacific Justice Institute has taken the next step by appealing the decision to the California Superior Court in Orange County.

The Bible study group, which met on Sunday mornings, until the City threatened further fines, was perfectly suited for his home, said Chuck Fromm. There was no noise beyond normal conversation and quiet music on the home stereo system. They met inside their family room and patio area. Many neighbors have written letters of support, denying they were disturbed by the presence of the Bible study. The group is not affiliated with any particular church, nor is it seeking to establish a church in the home.

What Do You Think?
We are not ones to simply say that there is an evil out to persecute all Christians. That type of extremism we don’t find helpful in times and situations like these. But we do have serious concerns about what is occurring here. The fact that a governing body can effectively shut down an act of worship taking place in a private home does not sound like the heart of America. In fact it goes against the fabric of our constitution—specifically the right to assemble. And while we have concerns about this reality as Christians, this situation affects more than those of us in the faith. Any gathering, any religious group, sports team, scout pack, band rehearsal, poker night, has reason to take note. But of course, as Christians it is disturbing on deeper levels. And it is even more alarming today than ever before: according to an NBC news report that aired one year ago (see video below), there are between 6 and 12 million people meeting in home churches every Sunday! Can local government decide if these churches have the right to gather? The right to worship … the right to pray?

We want to know what you think. Please share your thoughts with us on this matter.