Couple Fined For Bible Study, Calls It Persecution

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Chuck and Stephanie Fromm live in a 4,700-square-foot home on 1.5 acres in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. -- a prime location to gather with friends and neighbors.

For years, they've held Bible study in their home, drawing up to 50 people.

But in April, officials ordered those meetings to stop. One of 52 neighbors in the Fromms' rural subdivision had complained that the Bible studies were a nuisance.

In the months following, other citations were issued for violating a city code requiring a permit for any "regular" meeting by "religious, fraternal or nonprofit organizations."

So far, the Fromms have paid $300 in fines.

"I was just mortified that the city, as an agency, could really govern what was going on in my home," Chuck Fromm told CBN News.

"Right around the corner from our street there's a drug house," he later added. "The drug issue is a public safety issue and that's where the city should be concentrating its resources."

City Rooted in Religion

San Juan Capistrano is known for its religious roots and historic Catholic mission.

A city attorney released a statement to CBN News saying," The city does not prohibit home Bible studies."

"The issue with the Fromm case involves the question of when a property developed for residential use has been transformed into a place of public assembly," City Attorney Omar Sandoval added.

"[It] further involves regular meetings at their home... with impacts on the residential neighborhood, street access and parking," he said.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, is working with the couple. He holds that parking isn't the issue.

"There is no parking problem. No one has a problem except one person who simply doesn't like the fact that Christians are meeting there in a Bible study," he charged.

Listen to Chuck Fromm's entire interview with CBN News below.

One city official is on the Fromms' side. Councilman Derek Reeve said he thinks the ordinance should be re-evaluated because of this case.

The rule can apply to a gathering as simple as a football party.

"I would be very surprised if we do not re-evaluate this code and fix it when this is all over with," Reeve said.

"I'm working with the Fromms to fix this situation to make it very clear that if people want to hold a Bible study in their home, it's their religious right to do it," he added.

"It's their private property right to do it as well, and it's not something that should be discouraged," he said. "Frankly it's something that should be encouraged."

Enforcement or Harrassment?

In the meantime, the Fromms will continue holding their Bible study at the neighborhood clubhouse -- but not without opposition.

Chuck said that just this past Sunday, city workers interrupted their gathering to take a head count and ask questions.

The Fromms feel this is persecution similar to that seen in other nations like China.

"We don't realize how much persecution is going on at all levels until you start to get prosecuted," Chuck sad.

They've also started the website Right2Gather.com to draw attention to their case.

"God's in charge of the outcome," Chuck said. "I never expected this... where we're at now. [This] worldwide awakening to freedom and the importance of it."

A hearing is set for Oct. 7. If the city can't reach a decision, PJI is promising a fight all the way to the Supreme Court if needed.

"This fight is also for every Bible study in America," Dacus said. "Because if we do not prevail, the floodgates are going to be wide open for the similar kind of persecution and attack on every American home and family wishing to meet and read the Bible and pray as Christians should."

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