Pennsylvania family says they can’t hold Bible study on their own property

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Scott and Terri Fetterolf have owned their 32-acre farm for fifteen years. They also have a yarn and yarn store, sell fresh produce, flowers and other produce, offer classes to teach people how to use the produce they sell on the farm, and hold private events like showers weddings and prayer groups. But their freedom to worship on their property is now in question.

They were given a cease and desist order late last year by the borough of Sewickley Heights, requiring them to cease and desist from Bible study and calling them a “special school or workshop,” which requires the owner to go through a lengthy conditional use approval process to receive permission before Bible studies can resume. The order further ordered them to cease and desist from a night of worship, religious retreat and religious fundraising for children in Africa through the Kenya Christian Education Partnership, saying that these events were only permitted in areas where “places of worship or meeting” are permitted. .

If the Fetterolfs pursue Bible studies without permission or hold worship evenings, religious retreats, or religious fundraisers, the borough will fine the Fetterolfs $500 a day.

Jeremy Samek is a senior attorney at the Independence Law Center, a branch of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. He told CBN News that his organization represents the Fetterolfs and that what happened to them violates their constitutional rights.

Samek says making such demands on the Fetterolfs — or anyone for that matter — is illegal.

“What they’re doing here is they’re asking them to apply to the zoning board and get permission to hold a Bible study…force them to go through a public hearing to receive permission…and this kind of prior restriction is unconstitutional and infringes on their right to freely exercise their religion,” Samek told CBN News.

Samek says they are prohibited from holding not only Bible studies, but also church staff meetings, retreats or even religious fundraisers, categorizing them as places of worship. He said, for example, that a youth group of 30 students could not come to the farm and sing religious songs, but the same group of children could have a graduation party and play music. without restriction.

The borough has yet to file a response to the Independence Law Center lawsuit according to Samek. He says the mayor said they could hold Bible studies, but city attorneys say they can’t because those Bible studies would be labeled as a class and they would need a permit. for it.

The next step for the Fetterolfs and their attorneys, Samek said, is to await the federal court’s response to their complaint and preliminary injunction.

Meanwhile, Terri Fetterolf told the local paper, “I’m not looking to sue my borough and raise taxes, I’m just trying to live my life.”

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