A Florida family is facing fines for hosting a weekly Bible study in their home – an act that city officials argue violates zoning codes.
Shane and Marlen Roessiger, of Venice, Fla. are facing a $250 per day fine for hosting Friday night prayer and Bible study gatherings that are attended by as many as 10 people.
“It is difficult to understand how it is illegal to have a prayer meeting on Friday night with a half dozen people but it is alright if I invited the same group on Monday evening to watch Monday night Football,” Roessiger said.
The Roessigers are also facing a fine for putting a small sign in their front yard that reads: “Need Prayer (941) 484-4915.”
“It’s a weekly Bible study,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute. “It’s the same kind of Bible study that occurs in households across America.”
The Pacific Justice Institute is representing the Roessigers as they fight back against the city’s attacks. Dacus said they are hearing of a number of assaults on home Bible studies across the nation.
“They are having a specific problem with this family solely because they are having family and friends over to read the bible and pray,” Dacus told Fox News. “That may be fine in some tyrannical parts of the world. That is not okay in the United States of America.”
Pam Johnson, a spokesperson for the city of Venice, sent a statement to Fox News defending their actions and noting that the cases against the Roessigers have been continued.
“The Code Enforcement Board has continued both cases, although Mr. Roessiger was found guilty a few months ago of zoning violation (as it relates to land use),” Johnson said. “It has not been determined at this time if the use violation has been abated. No determination of guilt has been made for the sign issue because the case is continued.”
Johnson confirmed that the two cases involve a code infraction regarding the use of a sign and a zoning infraction regarding using their home as a ‘house of worship.’
The Roessigers run a small ministry called “In Him Healing Touch Ministries.” Dacus said like many small ministries, they received mail at their home instead of renting out a post office box. He believed the city used that to build a case against the family.
Dacus said that issue has since been remedied.
“We will not stand idly by while local governments run over families for having these types of religious gatherings in the privacy of their own homes,” he said. “If cities want to fine people and drag them into court or before tribunals for having prayer meetings, we will be waiting for them.”