City Drops Bid to Shut Down Home Bible Study, But Threat to Others Remains
Rancho Cucamonga, CA – A city northeast of Los Angeles that sparked national outrage for its attempts to shut down a home Bible study has conceded defeat while hinting that it might try to shutter similar groups.
The City of Rancho Cucamonga had sent an official letter to Pastor Puredi Hillary, who leads a small Bible study in his home on Friday nights, demanding that the group stop meeting by Good Friday unless it secured a costly and potentially unobtainable permit that is not required of comparable non-religious gatherings in homes. City officials ignored several phone calls from Pastor Hillary, but after receiving a letter from Pacific Justice Institute—and negative publicity nationwide—the City reversed course and dropped its enforcement action.
However, while the City has dropped its enforcement action against the Bible study group, the City has indicated that it did so only because it determined that the Friday night group did not appear to be a “church.” In a letter to Pacific Justice Institute last week, an attorney for the City defended the City’s stance that all churches in residential zones are illegal unless they obtain a costly permit. Thus, small home-based religious groups that consider themselves churches or meet on Sunday mornings instead of weeknights could still face severe enforcement action by the City at any time. To date, city officials have taken no steps to ensure that house churches will not be targeted next.
Pastor Hillary commented, “Without Pacific Justice Institute, the City did not respond and would not have responded to us. We appreciate the Mayor’s swift action to drop the matter once PJI attorneys got involved, but the Municipal Code needs to be changed so this dark cloud will not hang over other groups of believers.”
Attorney Michael Peffer, who heads PJI’s Southern California office and represents the Bible study group, commented, “We are very pleased that the City of Rancho Cucamonga saw the light and dropped their attempts to shut down this Friday night Bible study. At the same time, we are concerned that the City may use the same heavy-handed tactics against house churches. We urge any church or Bible study group threatened by Rancho Cucamonga or any other local government to contact PJI immediately.”