Gilbert, Arizona, officials have shut down the private, in-home meetings of the Oasis of Truth Church. Pastor Joe Sutherland received a cease-and-desist letter with a 10-day warning to stop the meetings, even though no neighbors have complained. The congregation, which met in the pastor’s home, consisted of only seven adults and four children.
Town officials claimed the seven-member group violates the Land Development Code, defending traffic, parking, and building safety concerns, despite the group having adequate parking accommodations. Bible studies and potluck dinners are even banned according to the code’s vague language. Interestingly, massive house parties and child day cares, which routinely violate the Land Development Code, are allowed.
The Constitution gives all Americans both the freedom of religion and assembly. It seems as though both freedoms are being assaulted.
Gilbert Mayor John Lewis said members of the city’s Town Council have asked town officials to stop enforcing the ban until permanent changes can be made at a March 22 meeting — or possibly earlier.
The Gilbert town council will hold a meeting next week to consider the code. Vice Mayor Linda Abbott has already expressed her opposition; hopefully others will follow.