For the second time in six months, the city has ordered a group of Christian worshippers who meet inside homes to get a permit or shut down.
It’s the latest incident in which religious groups in Southern California have been targeted by cities for home gatherings, though many of those groups were eventually allowed to meet without obtaining permits.
Rancho Cucamonga is trying to halt Friday night meetings at a home after receiving a complaint in February from a neighbor that 40 to 60 people were gathering weekly in the San Bernardino County location.
Officials said the homeowner needs a conditional use permit by Good Friday, April 2, to operate a church in a residential area.
Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal defense group that specializes in conservative Christian issues, said the meetings were actually a Bible study group that usually draws about 15 people.
The permit requires public hearings, traffic studies and other costly procedures. Requiring one would be “manifestly absurd and unjust,” according to a statement Tuesday from Brad Dacus, president of the Sacramento-based institute.
The city doesn’t require permits for similar-sized gatherings, “everything from birthday parties to the weekend beer bash,” added Matt McReynolds, an institute attorney.
These folks should go ahead with their meetings without a permit. There’s no way that the town’s effort to shut them down will stand up in court.