Virginians Assemble to Defend Bible Studies and the Right to Assemble in Private HomesNorthern VirginiaPolicySliderVirginia

3676201_GEarlier this week I told you about a proposed ordinance to limit the right to assemble in the privacy of one’s own home. It could have a chilling effect on home Bible studies and is a grave and fundamental violation of the Constitution.

Last night I spoke at a community meeting of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in opposition to the proposed regulation, explaining how it would not only violate the Constitution and Virginia law but smacks of the worst kind of government overreach.

Fairfax County residents turned out in full force to the first of three meetings on the proposal, overwhelmingly in opposition to the measure.

The proposed ordinance would limit the number of people allowed to assemble in the privacy of one’s home to 49, no more than three times in a 40 day period.

Fairfax County staff claim they are trying to address noise and parking complaints, but Fairfax County ordinances already address those issues. As I explained, if individuals are illegally parking, trespassing, or causing a noise disturbance, the County can issue them a citation.

Unbelievably, the Fairfax County staff at the meeting agreed that it did have noise and parking ordinances that it could enforce, but that there was no regulation on the books to control the size of gatherings. As shocking as that sounds, the government admitted that the real reason it needed to issue a regulation was merely because it hadn’t regulated it yet.

It is a stunning reminder of President Ronald Reagan’s famous summation of government’s philosophy, “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

I explained to the Fairfax County officials that this regulation not only violates free assembly rights but directly violates Virginia law and the religious liberty of those who hold Bible studies in their homes, including myself.

As I stated at the meeting, the Supreme Court has specifically held that it would be a direct violation of the Constitution for an ordinance “to make criminal the exercise of the right of assembly simply because its exercise may be ‘annoying’ to some people.”

That’s exactly what this proposed ordinance aims to do, I explained, and “What you cannot do is regulate individuals’ right to assemble within the privacy of his own home.”

Thankfully, the people of Fairfax County realize the gravity of this assault on our rights and came out in full force to oppose the regulation. And at least one member of the Board of Supervisors, Pat Herrity, raised a red flag, saying, “It is government poking its nose where it doesn’t belong.

The county has two more community meetings scheduled in the weeks ahead. Hopefully, the community outrage will lead to this absurd, blatantly unconstitutional, and clearly not thought-out proposal’s end. At the ACLJ, we’ll continue to follow this issue.

The right to assembly should be nowhere more protected than in the privacy of our own homes, and home Bible studies are no threat to any community.

This article is crossposted at RedState.com.

  • Marta

    Thank you, Matthew!

  • MD Russ

    Well, Matthew, I can count 17 or 18 people in the picture. Given that Fairfax County has a population of over 1,130,000, it is something of a stretch to say that the residents turned out in force. I’ve seen more people at Taco Bell on a Friday night at midnight. BTW, how many supervisors were there? Any chance it was more than zero, including your champion Herrity?

    Look, I am all in favor of preserving First Amendment rights and the Fairfax BOS is treading on thin ice here. But you folks are tilting with windmills. And that is my problem with the the social conservatives, the evangelicals, and the Tea Party wing of the Republicans. You just don’t know how to pick your fights. While you have got your underwear all bunched up in a wad over Freedom of Association, the biggest redistribution of wealth in the history of the Commonwealth has been taking place right under your noses. As a matter of routine, the General Assembly takes tens of millions of dollars from northern Virginia and the Tidewater and pays it out to rural counties for education and public safety services. And these “taker” counties have property tax rates that are between one-third and one-half of the millage rates paid in NoVa and Tidewater. Where is the outrage over that?

    Here is something for your Bible study group to pray on–press the General Assembly to give no state money to any county or town in Virginia whose property tax rate is less than the median in NoVa and Tidewater. Then I might agree that you need to have more than 49 people on Wednesday night.

  • louexis

    Mathew, I am curious what does ACLJ stand for?

    • MD Russ

      American Clowns in Line for the John.

      • louexis

        The reason I asked was because I thought you might have misspelled ACLU. I appreciate you clearing up that issue.

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