July 19, 2018
If the government can ban Bible studies on private property, what's next? That's what a couple in the Pittsburgh area is wondering after they were ordered by Sewickley Heights Borough officials to "cease and desist" from using their 35-acre property to host Bible studies, worship events, and other religious activities or face a daily $500 fine -- plus court costs.
Despite the borough's threats, however, the couple isn't backing down. The Independence Law Center has filed a lawsuit on their behalf against the city for violating the couple's religious freedom as well as their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and equal protection. As Jeremy Samek, Senior Counsel for the Independence Law Center pointed out, "Government should not target religious activities for punishment, particularly when similar secular activities are permitted. In America, no government can categorically ban people from assembling to worship on one's own property."
The borough's order claims that the couple is in violation of zoning restrictions that are in place for "Places of Worship." But as Samek points out, secular activities like political fundraisers, Super Bowl parties, and book clubs aren't banned. On top of that, the couple and the previous owner of the property have reportedly been using it to host religious events for decades without a single issue!
While we continue to witness a persistent rise in religious persecution around the world, this latest incident in Pittsburgh is a sobering reminder that persecution is also happening in our own backyard. That's why the couple's stand against the borough is all the more important -- to make government officials think twice before pursuing unconstitutional legal action against people of faith.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.