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    « District Attorney's Announcement of Charges in Fullerton Beating Death | Main | Saddleback College 'Dissident' Takes a Look at Capistrano Councilman, and Saddleback Prof, Reeve »

    September 22, 2011


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    Jim Reardon

    Nice research, Jonathan.

    For guidance here, one needs to consider the original intent of our municipal ordinance. It certainly wasn't intended to suppress religion, or even group gatherings in homes. But the poor construction of the law has created this result. The ensuing citation, administrative hearings, fees, and fines, not to mention the lost time and general bad feelings are instructive as to why we don't need laws to cover every possible situation the might arise in our town. I'm reminded of the prohibition of daggers in public parks.

    Vague and poorly constructed law is worse than no law at all.

    The obvious intention of the ordinance is to prevent the conversion of a residential property to one of the prohibited purposes. But realistically, this can only occur if the property is no longer used as a residence. Since nobody disputes that the Fromms actually reside in the home, the only remaining context has the City denying them the right to conduct a private Bible study in their private home.

    Those who would argue that the ordinance is reasonable since it allows the Fromms to apply for a permit are missing the point. Under what conditions might this permit application be denied? If it can't be denied, then what is the purpose of the permit? Certainly, the City doesn't intend to impose "fees" (aka taxes) on private Bible study, Rotary meetings, political gatherings, etc?

    Some might say that the permit process would allow the City to attach conditions or restrictions to the Fromm's use of their home for a Bible study. "Conditions or restrictions" on a private religious observance held within their home? What might be reasonable conditions? Who among us wants to decide what is a reasonable condition for a religious gathering, a Rotary meeting, or a political gathering in a private home?

    The City really should get out of the silly ordinance business and stop using expensive administrative law procedures as a source of revenue.

    Another obvious problem with our municipal code is that, lacking the budget to enforce it, the CIty only reacts to complaints. This creates a tool for those who might, out of spite, make complaints, thus using the City as a tool of harassement. When this is combined with poorly written law, the Fromm case demonstrates that the result can be ridiculous.

    The City should delete any ordinance it lacks the budget to enforce. After all, that budget is an expression of our true priorities. Only then can we know whether the City Council has the will to enforce what laws remain.


    Commenters wishing that government would go away notwithstanding, it is true that the ordinance is vague. That doesn't take away the parking and Life Safety conflict. The permit could be issued with the condition that cars don't block the lane for life safety vehicles. The condition could be less than 15 vehicles only. The condition could define regular church services. The condition could be x, y, z. Simple.

    Now that a right-wing legal outfit is involved, I doubt the City has the money to drag this out, especially since this is land-use and the Koch boys can get involved. They can agree to rewrite code if the Fromms get their church's cars off the road (yes, it is a church).



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