A couple in Pennsylvania has been served a cease-and-desist order for using their 32-acre farm for private prayer groups.
Scott and Terri Fetterolf received the order in 2017 after the Borough of Sewickley Heights in Pennsylvania claimed the farm “was being used improperly as a place of worship, a place of assembly and as a commercial venue and ‘special studio or school.’”
The borough is charging $500 for each permit if the couple wants to continue hosting activities at their farm.
The Fetterolf farm also has a yarn and wool shop and sells produce and flowers. The farm is also host to educational classes and private events.
The couple has filed an appeal to the cease-and desist order and is waiting to hear a decision from the federal court.
“I don’t seek to sue my borough and cause taxes to go up, I’m just trying to live my life,” Terri told the local newspaper.
The Fetterolfs are represented by the Independence Law Center, which is a branch of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
“What they’re doing here is they are requiring them to make a request with the zoning board and get permission to hold a Bible study… require them to go through a public hearing to receive permission… and that kind of prior restraining is unconstitutional and infringing on their right to freely exercise their religion,” said Jeremy Samek, senior counsel for the Independence Law Center.
Samek says the couple cannot have Bible studies, church staff retreats or meeting or any church fundraisers at their farm.
Attorneys for the borough say Bible studies could be labeled a class, which needs a permit. The farm is located in what’s been zoned a Historical-Rural Residential District.