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The Bible… Is It A Hate Book Or Just A Hated Book?

June 17, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By DEACON MIKE MANNO, JD

You would think that the Bible, on the whole, would be pretty noncontroversial. That, of course, isn’t true today, if it ever was. Today there are wholesale attacks on Scripture, not all of it, mind you, just the parts in which the attackers disagree.
Biblical values, especially those involving sex, marriage, and family, are now disputed even among mainstream thinkers. And because those values contradict many of today’s socially acceptable lifestyles, many view it as authorizing hate against those who don’t fully embrace its teaching.
Case in point — not that you need it pointed out — is the ever-evolving concept of marriage, homosexual relations, and the newest idea to float this boat: gender non-conformity.
And Christians today, including, unfortunately, many Catholics, tend to view the Bible as a smorgasbord: Take as much as you want of what you like and leave the rest. Many of the teachings contained therein thus cause division which, of course, means the Bible teaches hate. Or so it is said.
The result is that we’ve seen parts of Scripture defined as hate speech. And Bibles have been pulled from hotel and motel rooms, college guest housing, veterans’ memorial displays, and numerous other places where they once were often found.
Some of these things we’ve discussed here, others have come up on conservative Christian media, and many were a regular topic of discussion on my old Catholic radio program, Faith on Trial.
Yet there is one attack on the Bible that we haven’t talked much about, and while it is not a new attack, it is becoming more widespread and needs to be addressed. It is this: banning Bible studies in homes and apartments; the same being prohibited by homeowners associations, retirement communities, and local governing bodies.
“I don’t have hard numbers for you, and the decision-makers’ motives have varied. I can tell you that, in the past three years, we’ve had several of these situations involving seniors that certainly make it a trend,” said Matthew B. McReynolds, senior staff attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI).
PJI’s online bio of McReynolds notes that he “received his juris doctorate from Oak Brook College of Law in 2004. He then joined Pacific Justice Institute in early 2005. Prior to that time, Matt gained practical experience in defending religious liberties by clerking for the American Center for Law and Justice. During law school, he also was awarded first place in the prestigious Pew Scholarship Writing Competition sponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund.
“Since joining PJI, Matt has been actively involved both in litigation and in counseling countless churches, ministries and individuals as to their religious freedoms.”
Just in the past few years McReynolds has handled cases in California involving a homeowners association shutting down a worship service and Bible study for retirees in Bakersfield; and a similar case in Oakland where worship services were banned in a senior apartment complex.
Other cases included worship services at a mobile home park in San Luis Obispo, and an attack on Bible studies in a veterans’ home in Yountville where an 84-year-old woman was threatened with eviction over a Bible study in her apartment.
Many of the complaints come from militant atheists, McReynolds said. In one case, one complaint shut down a Bible study in a 550-home community. In another, an elderly woman was evicted from her apartment in central California over the Bible study she conducted.
The widow, who had lived in an apartment complex for 14 years, was evicted, while her lease was in full force and her rent paid to date. The owner of the property is the town’s vice mayor. The state is now investigating.
In 2011, a couple in San Juan Capistrano was fined $300 for holding a Bible study on their property. The city claimed that the Bible study made the home a church and the couple needed to acquire a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for use in a residential area, otherwise it was illegal to hold “a regular gathering of more than three people.”
A CUP in California requires several public hearings; applicants are required to obtain traffic and other studies costing thousands of dollars. Without one, the “church” was ordered to end its Bible study on Good Friday.
But not all these cases come from the West Coast and numerous Christian-based law firms are taking the lead to defend the rights of Christians against Bible naysayers.
In 2012 a Venice, Fla., couple was fined $250 a day after city officials claimed they were conducting an “unauthorized” house of worship in their residence by hosting a weekly Bible study. Every Friday a half-dozen to ten participants joined them.
What tipped off the city? The couple started a ministry involving outreaches to the poor, but instead of renting a post office box for their correspondence they used their home address. City enforcement officials used their mailing address to build the case against them.
Said the homeowner, “How is it illegal to have a prayer meeting on Friday night with a half dozen people, but it is all right if I invited the same group on Monday to watch Monday Night Football?”
Also in Florida, a condominium complex banned a resident’s Bible study in the common area including “prayers and other religious services, observations, or meetings of any nature.”
In Fredericksburg, Va., a retired Lutheran minister and his wife are being threatened with eviction by apartment management for conducting an in-home Bible study. Initially the minister was allowed to use the community room, but was required to list the meeting as a book study, not a Bible study.
After confrontations with confused people who tried to attend a book study, the minister moved the Bible study to his apartment. That wasn’t good enough for the owners. First Liberty has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on behalf of the minister and his wife.
In Gilbert, Ariz., the town has apparently banned all residential Bible studies. The pastor of one church received a cease and desist letter from the city ordering him to end all religious meetings at his home, regardless of size or frequency. The church has only seven members.
In Sewickley Heights, Pa., another family was told they were not permitted to hold Bible studies on their farm. In addition to Bible studies the family conducts worship and prayer sessions, retreats, and a fundraiser for an overseas Christian group on an empty part of the farm where they also host picnics and Labor Day activities.
Of course, those attempting Bible and prayer bans have any number of reasons to justify their actions. For many public facilities the answer is that public funds may not be used for religious purposes, even though the tenants are paying rent as any other tenant would. For others the reason is security, strangers in the building being a threat unless, of course, they are there for a poker or Tupperware party, even though the Bible studies may be open to only building residents.
Private facilities claim nuisance problems and municipalities often claim traffic congestion problems. Interestingly, Super Bowl and World Series parties never get the same scrutiny.
“This certainly represents a trend to us,” said McReynolds of Pacific Justice Institute, noting that they rarely had cases like them in prior years. “Some of them have definitely been due to militant atheists.”
Be vigilant, my friends, least you become a victim, too.
(You can reach Mike at: DeaconMike@q.com.)

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