Resolution by Gilbert town council in reference to home bible studiesPosted: Updated:
GILBERT – Home bible studies have been illegal in Gilbert for the past few years.
The reason is because of a zoning code no one knew about until a local church got cited. That made national news.
The town council says it is committed to protecting its residents’ religious freedom and voted unanimously to change the ordinance that has come under heavy fire.
Pastor Drew Sutherland, with the Oasis of Truth Church, says, “We have been obviously disappointed with the code.”
Pastor Sutherland and members of the church were told several weeks ago to stop meeting in his Gilbert home.
Sutherland, whose church is new and has less than 10 members, was hit with a violation notice.
Pastor Sutherland says, “Despite the difficulty this has caused and maybe a little bit of disruption that this has caused, we firmly believe that god is in control.”
Council members approved a motion to change the current ordinance that says "public and private schools and religious assembly are not permitted in single family residential structures."
It discussed four different options which include changing the definition of religious assembly and regulating all gatherings from Cub Scout meetings to Superbowl parties.
Councilmember Steve Urie says, “My suggestion would be simply saying assemblies are permitted in single family residences provided there isn't a problem with parking, traffic or other public safety issues.”
The Alliance Defense Fund, a religious advocacy group, says it just wants the new ordinance to fall in order with religious freedoms protected under the constitution.
Douglas Napier, with the Alliance Defense Fund, explains, “If it's a level playing field, we're good with that because we're going to be good neighbors and we're going to be good citizens.
The recommendations discussed Monday night still have to go through a formal process, including a public hearing before it is approved.
Mayor John Lewis indicated that would not happen until early June at the earliest.
In the meantime, the city council has suspended any enforcement of the current code.