Saturday, September 24, 2011

SoCal City Too Big for its Britches

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I have put the 1st Amendment to our Constitution as an opening for a very good reason. There is a small southern California community south of Los Angeles that thinks the US Constitution and subsequent rulings by the US Supreme Court doesn’t apply to them.

In the city of San Juan Capistrano, a couple has been fined $300 for holding a Bible study in their home, and are threatened with higher fines if they continue to host these gatherings. The city municipal code states that “religious, fraternal or non-profit” cannot gather in a residential neighborhood without a use permit. But there is a problem with this code. According to the Constitution, “…of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Yes, I am aware that the Constitution is a federal document regulating operations at the federal level, but there is precedence. The SCOTUS has ruled that the 14th Amendment applies to each state, including local governments. This city ordinance is prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Very often, governments feel they can impose their will on the people they were elected to represent. Often times, these elected leaders will put laws and rules in place against a group of folks they think will keep quiet or not raise a ruckus. Frequently, the rules and laws are imposed against Christians, who have a history of turning the other cheek. It is just part of our nature. We generally won’t sweat the small stuff. Because of this, progressive, socialist, and democrat politicians have no issue passing codes and laws that restrict Christians’ ability to exercise their Constitutional-given right.

Another thing to consider with this is that it has hardly garnered any national level attention. It has made the rounds on the conservative blogs and a few local-level news outlets, but you won’t see it on any of the major news outlets, other than Fox News. But imagine if the religious group that had violated the city code and received the citation had been muslim. First of all, it would be my guess there isn’t one member of the San Juan Capistrano city council or any of their enforcement officers would have the cajones to issue a citation to a group of muslims. I am not going to go as far as to say they would neglect their duty due to fear of muslim reprisals. I think they would hesitate to act due to the negative national media reaction that would be sure to arrive. Despite the fact we are a Christian nation, founded on Judeo-Christian values, there is no more protect religious sect than the muslims. If they did issue the citation, the media would have a field day. Experts would be all over the TV bemoaning the lack of compassion. National muslim leaders would be interviewed for days on end to discuss the bigotry displayed by the city leaders. Liberal blogs and their readers would be beside themselves with disgust at our treatment of this downtrodden people. The comments sections would be awash with folks dismayed with all that was going on and then say it was all George Bush’s and the Christian Right’s Fault.

On the bright side the couple is suing San Juan Capistrano and is being represented by the Pacific Justice Institute. Based on SCOTUS precedence and the Constitution, I think their suit has a great chance of succeeding.

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