Northern California county officials recently reversed their decision to ban a Christian congregation from meeting in a barn. Located just outside of Oroville, Calif. in Butte County, a group of Christians had been holding meetings in a barn, but county officials informed the owners of the barn and property they could no longer use the space to host church services. The same officials later even banned church gatherings in an open pasture on the property.
The religious ban caught the attention of the Pacific Justice Institute, which is an organization that defends religious freedom and other civil liberties. PJI representatives sent a letter to county officials explaining that religious events cannot be barred if non-religious ones are permitted.
Although the county officials had banned the religious meetings because the area was not zoned for church services, entertainment performances were still allowed in similar places, reports Ocala Star Banner.
"The people there who own the property basically had a church service -- not only for the homeless," said Brad Dacus, who heads the Pacific Justice Institute. "They have about 80 or 90 people at a time coming there to worship, and it's been very successful ministering."
Julie Berry Clark said she thought whoever owns this property should be able to do what he wants with it, having whatever type of meeting he desires. "Why would he need a permit to have people in his barn, in his field, or in his home?" she posed online.
"The county also said you can't meet here because it's zoned for agriculture - it's not zoned for church services. What was the real rub here is the fact that the county allowed other groups and other things to take place - entertainment performances in these places - and yet they were putting their foot down on the church," Dacus said.
After a review of the legal information by county officials, they reversed their decision and issued the property owners a lawful conditional use permit to continue the services. Along with providing a place to worship, the church also provides clothing and other essentials to the homeless people who attend.
Carlos Santiago stated online: "It seems odd that Constitutional rights are allowed only where zoned for it. If the Constitutional right can be exercised safely why not allow it?"
Another online reader of OneNewsNow suggested the property owners "throw the permit in the face of these communists and ignore any further interference. Furthermore, a civil/religious rights suit should be brought against anyone involved in this attack in the millions."
Dacus was presented an honorary doctorate of Religious Freedom and Family Rights degree from California Baptist University in recognition of his commitment to faith and justice and his work protecting parental rights and religious freedom through the Pacific Justice Institute.