According to The American Policy Center:
In a “Fifth Amendment” treatise by Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders (12/10/97), he writes: Our state, and most other states, define property in an extremely broad sense.” That definition is as follows:
“Property in a thing consists not merely in its ownership and possession, but in the unrestricted right of use, enjoyment, and disposal. Anything which destroys any of the elements of property, to that extent, destroys the property itself. The substantial value of property lies in its use. If the right of use be denied, the value of the property is annihilated and ownership is rendered a barren right.”
The right of use has come under fire in recent years. One instance of property rights being violated occurred recently in Pennsylvania.
Yesterday Todd Starnes posted the following:
The owners of a Pennsylvania farm have been ordered by the Sewickley Heights Borough to cease and desist holding Bible studies on their private property.
Borough leaders accused Scott and Terri Fetterolf of improperly using their 35-acre farm as a place of worship, a place of assembly and as a commercial venue.
They were served a cease-and-desist order in October 2017, the Post-Gazette reported.
The Independence Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the farmers against the borough alleging an egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution.
According to the lawsuit, the Fetterolfs were threatened with fines of $500 per day plus court costs for having Bible studies at their home, having meetings where religious songs are sung, conducting any religious retreats for church leaders or seminary students or conducting any religious fundraisers.
The article concludes:
The lawsuit accuses the government leaders of violating religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and equal protection.
“Government should not target religious activities for punishment, particularly when similar secular activities are permitted,” attorney Jeremy Samek said. “In America, no government can categorically ban people from assembling to worship on one’s property.”
To that point, the lawsuit alleges the borough allows other activities and gatherings – ranging from political rallies to a Harry Potter event.
So if government leaders allow muggles to cavort in Sewickley Heights Borough, they should afford the same rights to Christians gathering for Bible study on private property.
There are situations where it might be appropriate to limit a home Bible study–if parking becomes a problem in the neighborhood or if the noise level was inappropriate. However, this was on a farm–I doubt there was either a noise or a parking problem. This is simply an illegal attempt to limit religious activity, and I suspect the Sewickley Heights Borough will lose the case in court. However, the thing to remember here is that in many cases the people holding the Bible study would not have the resources to fight the case in court. There are a number of legal advocates for Christians under attack that are handling this sort of case. We should all be grateful for these organizations–they are protecting our right to the free exercise of our religious beliefs.