A southern California family has been fined for holding regular Bible studies at their home because it violates a city zoning code, The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
The city of San Juan Capistrano, in Orange County, fined Charles and Stephanie Fromm $300 for having as many as 50 people assembled at their home twice a week, the Times reported. City officials also warned the couple that subsequent fines could increase if they continued to host the Bible studies without obtaining a special permit.
A religious legal non-profit group, the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), has taken up the case saying the fine was a violation of religious freedom.
A spokeswoman for the city of San Juan Capistrano stressed that local authorities were not trying to prohibit home Bible study.
Instead, she said the city fined the Fromms for transforming a residential area into a place where people regularly assemble.
"The Fromm case further involves regular meetings on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons with up to 50 persons, with impacts on the residential neighborhood on street access and parking," spokeswoman Cathy Salcedo said in an email to The Los Angeles Times.
Brad Dacus, an attorney for the Public Justice Institute, said the Fromms live in a semi-rural area and have not caused any parking problems for neighbors.
The city "needed some kind of rational basis to justify their rigid intolerance towards this family for having a Bible study in their home," Dacus told the Times.
He said the Fromms should have their money returned, adding that PJI intends to defend "this family's home Bible study all the way to the US Supreme Court, if necessary."
The Fromms could not be reached Wednesday for comment, the Times said.