Bible Study Banned: Family Ordered to Stop Hosting Religious Activities  

July 18, 2018 | 35 comments | Posted in Religious Freedom | Tags:

Lawsuit Filed after Pittsburgh Suburb Borough Officials Order Family to End Events like Bible Studies on Private Property

The Independence Law Center has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Pittsburgh-area couple who was ordered by government officials to stop using their private property to host Bible studies.

Sewickley Heights Borough, fifteen miles west of Pittsburgh, is now ordering Scott and Terri Fetterolf to stop using their 35-acre property to host Bible studies, worship events, religious retreats, or religious fundraisers, something they and the prior owner have done for decades.

“The borough has no business overseeing a group of people reading and discussing a book together on private property—even if that book is the Bible,” said Randall Wenger, Chief Counsel for the Independence Law Center.

Borough officials filed a Notice of Violation/Cease and Desist Order and seek to impose zoning restrictions such as those applicable to “Places of Worship” like churches and synagogues on the Fetterolfs’ activities. However, secular counterparts to these activities like parties, political fundraisers, and book clubs are not banned.

“Government should not target religious activities for punishment, particularly when similar secular activities are permitted,” said Jeremy Samek, Senior Counsel for the Independence Law Center. “In America, no government can categorically ban people from assembling to worship on one’s own property.

The Independence Law Center filed Fetterolf v. Borough of Sewickley Heights today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The case raises claims involving religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and equal protection.

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Independence Law Center is a Pennsylvania-based pro-bono legal organization dedicated to advancing civil rights.

35 Comments

Richard Jacobelli

This is outrageous. The Constitution and our Republic is in serious danger. Voters need to change the downward spiral of our communities.

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D Keys

I don’t think there’s enough information in this blog post to tell us the full story. It may or may not be discrimination…..without both sides of the story, there’s the minimal actual truth.

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Michele

There are several articles about this issue if you want more information! What is happening is unjust!

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Bruce Linderman

“However, secular counterparts to these activities like parties, political fundraisers, and book clubs are not banned.”

There is NO difference between a secular belief and a religious one. They are both philosophies, and should be characterized as such, and treated equally.

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Linda Chapel

This firm says it stands for civil rights…what about freedom of religion in our constitution? You have no rights to infringe on Americans with your bias. Take it to the Supreme Court we will win!!!

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Joe Mama

It’s Freedom of Religion, not Freedom “From” Religion. When that was placed in the constitution, it meant that the federal government couldn’t force it’s citizens to a one country religion, they gave us the right to worship God however we want. Unless, they are breaking a noise ordinance or there is some local law stating they can’t because of zoning, then they can worship God however they want and invite whomever they want.

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Michelle Agatson

Absolutely unacceptable!!!!!! The borough needs to deal with borough business and leave the use of private property to those who own it. The Fettoroff’s have been a blessing to that community and the city of Pittsburgh for years!

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Jalapenolady

An ordinance that has been on the books for a long time and hasn’t been challenge till now. The old saying, “You can’t fight city hall.” unless you have to money to do so. The ordnance needs changed.

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Philip Abromats

The ordinance is already preempted by federal law. See my comment below.

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Stand forjustice

This is a direct violation of civil rights, freedom of speech and infringing on private property. Time for some protesters march in this boro. Wake up people your rights are being stripped away daily.

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Marco

Has the borough never heard of the First Amendment? If not, they need a short, sharp lesson in what it means.

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Dale McNamee

These are elected officials and those behind this should be voted out of office !

I pray that God will bless the Independence Law Center’s suit and that the borough learns a painful lesson.

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Jack Harbaugh

It seems that this ordinance is only for those assemblies that are established as official church structured organizations that are registered as non-profit corporations. To apply this ordinance to a private gathering, regardless of how many (it’s 35 acres for crying out load) seems like some zoning officer is just trying to justify his or her position.
Zoning officers should be required to take an entry level course on constitutional law.

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Dolores Burns

Praying for the land owners to stand firm, and also for the Zoning Department to use common sense in this situation. God wants to be honored in your city, county and state.
If not, you will not prosper.

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Philip Abromats

The wicked prosper in the world, but the righteous prosper in God. I think the US District Court in Pittsburgh will probably soon issue an injunction against the Borough.

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Scott

Sewickley Heights Borough Government officials are out of their minds. This nation, All communities need more Biblical Faith Based Community involvement and they are bringing cease and desist orders against the couple. MERCY, where is you head, heart, FAITH at., surely not in the belief of government as GOD. ONLY one Entity saves and that is JESUS CHRIST and we need more of this

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Robert E. Mitchell

Sewickley Heights is a Monied Community, someone is trying to throw their weight around. If they were having a pool party, or a fundraiser BBQ, there wouldn’t likely be a fuss. So long as these folks are not blocking the street or road with vehicle parking, there really should not be a problem. A 30 to 35 acre property, could easily hold about 10 soccer fields. First Amendment Rights are emblazoned brightly all over this !

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Philip Abromats

Especially of it were a fundraiser for a pro-abort or LBGT group.

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Graham Heeley

This is outrageous,how dare they try to prevent people from studying the word of God. They should be made an example of by the courts.
Graham

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PMN

What are the property owners doing exactly that raises red flags for the borough to enforce this ordinance? Are they having jamborees or major events that involve use of the borough police? If I held a bible study at my home in my community on a regular basis no one would know or care. Full story please.

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Wheelski

This is an outrage. We live in a country that allows us the freedom of speech, press and religion. What people do in their own homes is their own business.

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Rita Shaffer

I think this is just crazy! It is getting very scary! This is very discriminating. It looks s there property. I hope they get it straighten out and are allowed to continue their meetings.

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Michele

People need to get involved! This is happening all over the US. Saw a report on TV last year about a woman in the West who bought a horse farm and held Bible studies. The government came in with a search warrant and tore up her home and barns. She fought a long, hard battle and finally won. However it may not have happened without huge monetary donations from Christians around the world. It never should have come to that but GOD trumps Big Government and the prayers saw her through! I hope that all who comment show their support for the Federoff family and share this story!! Please share, contact the media, contact the Borough of Sewickley, contact your local congressman and show up at the hearings.

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Darek Israel

I have been imprisoned and denied a Bible for an entire week(tp as well)

Its the one thing they can’t take from us, the Word of God, but they’ve tried

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Theodora Cottem

In 1941 we were told by FDR that we had freedom of worship, speech and freedom from want and fear. We’ve already lost the last two. What’s up with that? Are they telling us that the house where we study Bible must must be zoned for such an activity? Does the government think they have become God?

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Allen Anderson

If this is true it is an atrocity; a flagrant violation of the constitution. It is a direct violation of the first amendment and makes a very strong case for the second amendment. How can I get involved?

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Jane

Wait, I thought this was America. “Land of the free, home of the brave.” Not communist China.

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Sharon Stettler

I’ve read a few of the articles about this and it’s still unclear. If they are zoned commercially and have adequate parking they should be allowed to hold these events. When I read about the 800 cars going in(if this is true), it did cause me to reconsider. I wouldn’t want 800 cars going in and out of my neighbors property for any reason!

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Len B.

The first amendment clearly states — Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor FORBID THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF. What part of this do they not understand? I stand with this family. They will win. Some times I believe people do this knowing full well they are wrong. They just want those who hold strong Biblical beliefs to get caught up in time and money. Why don’t these people do something constructive and benificial with their lives.

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