Last week it was reported that Pastor David Jones was told that his weekly Bible study on Tuesday nights was not legal. The home study would be requiring a conditional use permit that could cost thousands. The media came out in force.
The Pastor was told last week by a code enforcer that his Bible study required a conditional use permit after being questioned about the Bible study. The official had asked Jones if at the weekly meeting members prayed, said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord”. When the answers were positive the official stated that they were a religious assembly and required the permit.
The permit is no longer being required for Pastor Jones and his wife’s Tuesday night Bible studies but the case is not closed yet.
There are still open issues about the land use to be haggled through.
Digital Journal talked to James Griffiths of the The Western Center for Law & Policy (WCLP) on Monday about the case.
While the county has reversed the order to have a conditional use permit for the Pastor they have not as of yet apologized for the overzealous code official’s writing of the order, according to Griffiths.
The original complaint came as a result of a car door ding from a visitor to the neighbourhood. Griffith said that all of the neighbours on the street had no concerns over the weekly Bible study. In fact they are standing behind Pastor Jones.
As for the car ding Pastor Jones paid out of his own pocket for the repairs without even knowing for sure where the damage came from, says Griffiths. The minor damage cost the pastor about $220.
Pastor Jones is the pastor of South Bay Christian Fellowship in San Diego. He and Griffith hope that the Bible study will continue to grow as large as it can. Space is an issue but there could be a chance for additional Bible studies to take place. Regardless they are hopeful that they can reach more people.
As to what comes next Griffiths says that depends on the county.
“So far we have only sent the demand letter to San Diego County. No motion has been filled yet. We are concerned about the land permit issue. We are hoping not to have to fill a motion in the end.”
The WCLP is doing all of the work for Pastor Jones pro bono.
According to spokesman Luis Monteagudo County Supervisor Greg Cox has received 240 emails and 33 voicemail messages concerning this case as of May 29.
San Diego County chief administrative officer Walt Ekard issued the following statement about the case reports the Washington Post.
“No one respects the right to free religious expression more than I do and no one would find the infringement of such rights more abhorrent. The Bible studies will continue in Pastor David Jones’ home as we work to find a solution that works for everyone involved in this matter. Should I find that County staff at any level acted in a heavy-handed way; did anything inappropriate under the circumstances; or that a change or revision to our processes and procedures is warranted, I will take appropriate action immediately.”
Both sides will meet on June 9 to discuss additional issues about the case. Until that meeting the Bible study will continue.