Pennsylvania Family Told They Can't Hold a Bible Study on Their Own Property
Scott and Terri Fetterolf have owned their 32-acre farm for about two years. They also have a yarn and wool shop, sell fresh produce, flowers and other goods, provide educational classes, and host private events like bridal showers and prayer groups. But their freedom to worship on their own property has now been called into question.
They were served a cease-and-desist order late last year by the borough of Sewickley Heights claiming the "farm was being used improperly as a place of worship, a place of assembly, and as a commercial venue and 'special studio or school,'" according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The borough wants the Fetterolfs to pay $500 each for permits for all of their activities in order to continue them....
Actually the Establishment clause was originally aimed at the Federal gov't, for at the time, many states had established churches, like VA and MA, while others did not, like PA and Catholic-founded MD. The Bill of Rights would not have been ratified if states believed the 1st Amendment applied to them.
Eventually, all remaining state churches were disestablished. Furthermore, the Incorporation Doctrine later applied the Bill of Rights to states. We should be thankful, for what if our state decided to establish Islam or a Church of Satan?
This is not as unusual as it sounds. The exact same thing happened to Dan Miller of the 48 Days podcast and website. He was living on a small farm and converted the barn to use for his gatherings to promote his materials. It had nothing religious about it. But the local govt. cracked down on him and issued an order that he had to 'cease and desist' and tear down the barn by a specific date or pay a fine. Now he is looking to move away, after having lived there for many years. And, since the 'long arm of the law' is involved, he cannot sell the farm and escape since it will appear on the public records when a title search is done on the property, and must be settled. Either he has to bulldoze the barn, or the buyer will, and take that cost out of the purchase price.
I think you are right about this case, Dr. Tim. I still argue that by not appearing above board, these landowners are in the midst of a mess. The borough could not differentiate btwn those business & private ventures. Are we not to avoid every appearance of evil?