SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO (CBS) — City officials in San Juan Capistrano have taken steps to prevent future conflicts after sparking national outrage for fining and threatening a home Bible study group.
The City Council voted unanimously late Tuesday night to adopt changes to its zoning code after lawyers from the Pacific Justice Institute went to court earlier this year to defend Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, who were fined $300 last November for holding “a regular gathering of more than three people”.
The city ultimately reversed course and refunded the fines it had levied against the family, and now seeks to amend its municipal code in cooperation with the Fromm family to find a solution.
The changes adopted by San Juan Capistrano conform to the California Building Code, which does not apply church building standards to home-based groups with less than 50 attendees.
As a result, small home-based religious groups in the city will be treated like similarly-sized secular gatherings and will not be required to get costly use permits.
“There is no reason why any family in the United States of America should have to worry about the government crashing their home Bible study or whatever meeting they’re having because of arduous rules and unreasonable restrictions,” said attorney Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute.
Dacus is also encouraging concerned citizens across the country to check with their local officials to make sure that home bible studies will be protected in their communities.
“We only hope at this point that other cities and counties across the country can learn from this wonderful resolution by the city of San Juan Capistrano to not make the same mistake twice,” he said.