Shane and Marlen Roessiger, of Venice, Florida, are facing a $250 per day fine for hosting Friday night prayer and Bible study gatherings in their home that are attended by as many as 10 people, an act that city officials argue violates zoning codes.

It is difficult to understand how it is illegal to have a prayer meeting on Friday night with a half dozen people but it is alright if I invited the same group on Monday evening to watch Monday night Football,” Roessiger said.

The Roessigers are also facing a fine for putting a small sign in their front yard that reads: “Need Prayer (941) 484-4915.”

This would never happen in an unfree nation like England. Heck, it would have put Tupperware and Ann Summers out of business. On the whole, in England you could only be prosecuted for what you do in your own home if it was causing a significant nuisance to your neighbours. Just running a business from home is not against the law and even holding a full blown house church meeting in a private residence would never get you into trouble with the law.

Perhaps the Romans had similar zoning laws.



  1. A recent example occurred in Palm Bay, FL., where The Church of Iron Oak, a Wiccan congregation affiliated with the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, fought a lengthy and costly battle to protect the rights of its members to engage in “home worship.” A Palm Bay ordinance required churches in residential areas to obtain a special zoning permit and restricted worship to no more than five people. The church successfully argued that its legal offices were located elsewhere and that the home of the ministers, where sabbat (from the original Greek word “esbaton”, meaning “a sacred or holy day”) worship was held, did not meet the ordinance’s legal definition of a church; that is, for a building to be a church, the practice of religion must be its primary use, whereas the home where the worship had occurred was used primarily as a residence.

    Now, Palm Bay is over on the east coast of FL and Venice is on the opposite side of the state. But I’m sure that if these people fought this, they could win this by citing the Iron Oak case as a precedent. The UUs could also be a big help to them in this situation.

    HOWEVER, I have a feeling these folks, being “good Christians,” may not want to have any association with UUs and Wiccans even if it could benefit them, because the Wiccans and UUs are “heretics.” Yay for divisivenes and mutual suspicion and all that, right? /end sarcasm

  2. Also, the city of Venice apparently does not realize or count on the Roessigers suing the city for harrassment, violation of their First Amendment rights, etc etc etc. Would serve them right, if they pursued that.

  3. Some cranky neighbor’s made a complaint after his/her driveway got blocked one too many times. City officials will likely back down as those higher up on the “food chain” become involved, and precedent is apparent. The fine will be overturned, but since that’s not news, we’ll hear no more about it. However, should a zoning law be written so restrictively and the city doesn’t back down, Tracie, you should not doubt the resolve of the thwarted evangelical.

  4. Does the esteemed city of Venice also prohibit other gatherings of people in homes – dinner parties, birthday celebrations, et al – or just religious gatherings? Thin ice, buckos…..