This is the latest installment in a year-end series looking back at some of the numerous victories by the ACLJ in 2018.
The ACLJ stepped in to defend the religious and civil liberties of a retired Georgia couple when the local government tried to restrict them from offering their home as a quiet spiritual retreat.
For more than fourteen years, the couple used their own home as a place for friends and fellow members of the ministry to rest, re-energize themselves, and recuperate from the daily stresses of the ministry.
This year they were shocked to receive notice from the county that they were in violation of a zoning code and were required to obtain a special permit to operate a bed and breakfast if they planned to continue hosting guests.
Despite the couples’ insistence that they were not operating a bed and breakfast and did not charge fees but rather spent time in fellowship with their guests – eating, praying, and talking – the county insisted they must jump through the bureaucratic hoops of obtaining a special permit.
The county’s insistence clearly discriminated against this couple’s exercise of their religious liberty.
What they were doing in their own home was no different than what any of us would do with visiting family or friends.
Dumbfounded, the couple reached out to the ACLJ. We immediately contacted the county to clarify that regulation of the couple’s private use of their home in this manner is not only unjustified (since safety, traffic, and disruption to the neighborhood were not valid concerns) but such regulation would impede their rights secured under the Constitution and federal law.
Specifically, and as the Supreme Court of the United States has made clear, a local government “may not avoid the strictures of [the Equal Protection] Clause by deferring to the wishes or objections of some faction of the body politic.”
The bottom line was, the couple should be free to host friends and ministry members in their home, peacefully and without bothering anyone in the neighborhood, without government interference.
Following our intervention, the county changed course and ceased all further enforcement efforts against the couple.
We are happy to report that the couple was immediately able to return to its ministry and mission of “lavish[ing] the love of God on the servants of God, so they can be refreshed to better fulfill the call of God on their lives.”
To help the ACLJ continue to have the resources we need to make these victories possible and continue defending religious liberty, please consider making a Tax-Deductible donation to the ACLJ through our year-end Matching Challenge. Your gift will be DOUBLED dollar-for-dollar through the end of the year.
You can read more in the ACLJ’s 2018 Victories series here.
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