Members of The Oasis of Truth Church in Arizona had been meeting randomly for Bible study through out the week and just general fellowship in their own homes, alternating between different homes through out the week; harmless, right? Not according to the local officials in the town of Gilbert, Arizona who served them with notice that having a private Bible study (or other religious activity, apparently) has been banned in their town. The church, of course, is fighting back with the aid of the Alliance Defense Fund whose lawyers pointed out not only the obvious constitutional issues, but the larger implications at play here. The ironic, and disturbing, fact that secular meetings and events of any size are allowed in any private home for any purpose without question as long as they are not religious in nature, but any religious activities, regardless of the size of the group, the nature of the activity, or even the frequency of said events are apparently forbidden. So what this appears to break down to according to current reports, is that if you choose to invite someone over to your home to study the Bible, to have Shabbat dinner, or to examine the Bhagavad Gita you would be in violation of the town's ordinance and served with an order to cease from such activity just as the seven members of the The Oasis of Truth Church were.
The church is fighting back; however, should they lose, what are the larger implications here for our political freedoms? Freedom of Religion, the Freedom of Speech, and the Right to Privacy would essentially go out the window, and what would be next? Could a town government controlled by a particular party then ban all meetings or private discussions by supporters of their oppositions? Are we going to start criminalizing the Bible or religious practitioners or hold “elections” at gun point? The implications of this could affect everyone on both sides of the fence from privacy concerns, gay rights, or anyone concerned with freedom of speech and the free flow of thought in our nation. If we allow such basic freedoms, guaranteed to us since the founding of the nation, to fall here and now, the future will be quite bleak for America.
While I certainly support a community's right to set their own standards for public conduct, such a right stops when they breach the constitutional barrier that protects individuals, guarantees their freedom of religion, and removes the Government's domain behind the privacy of closed doors. As long as someone is not violent or harming others, what we do in our homes is a matter of OUR choice, and ours alone, once that ceases to be the case, we have ceased to be a free nation and cases such as this are threatening to spiral us towards a monolithic oppressive nation ruled by a cultural tyranny.