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Does The Constitution Still Apply In Fairfax Co. Virginia?

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. -- Amendment I to the Constitution of the United States

George Mason, one of the fathers of the Bill of Rights, must be rolling in his grave at Gunston Hall in Fairfax County, Virginia as the county Board of Supervisors considers an ordinance that would ban assemblies at private homes of groups larger than 49 individuals.

The proposed zoning ordinance limits “group assembly” at residences to 49 people a day. Such gatherings “shall not occur more frequently than three times in any 40-day period” according to the current draft of the ordinance."

Church groups, scouting organizations or even sports fans drawn to a home’s big-screen TV during playoffs could be potential targets of the proposed county law. Realtors worry that even open houses would invite civil penalties.

Of course the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is not Congress, so there is some question whether or not it can in fact limit the number of individuals gathering on private property.

As our friend Kenric Ward, Virginia Bureau Chief of Watchdog.org, noted in his article “Fairfax aims to downsize home assemblies,” that some courts have upheld aggressive zoning restrictions. In Phoenix, a minister was sentenced to 60 days in jail for conducting Bible study classes with 10 people at a home.

Fortunately for liberty lovers in Fairfax County, Supervisor Pat Herrity has stepped-up to oppose the proposal. “I believe the county is risking a lawsuit and/or a constitution challenge by interfering with peoples’ right to assemble,” he said in a written statement.

County officials say they have received complaints about group meetings at homes. But Herrity said, “they haven’t even reached 1 percent of the thousands of complaints our Department of Code Compliance investigates a year.”

“This is yet another instance where we appear to be punishing the many for the actions of the few,” said Herrity, who reported a total of six complaints were received last year.

Kenric Ward’s reporting for Watchdog.org captured our own views in the comments of John Whitehead, an attorney and president of the civil-libertarian Rutherford Institute.

“Broad enactments like these have governments assuming that private property is their property,” Whitehead said in an interview with Watchdog.org.

“If you can’t determine what goes on at your own residence, you have surrendered your rights. The Constitution is founded on property rights,” said Whitehead.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is moving ahead with three public-comment sessions on the staff-drafted ordinance:

Wednesday, May 7, South County Government Center, 8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria.

Monday, May 12, Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax.

Monday, May 19, Lemon Road Elementary School, 7230 Idylwood Road, Falls Church.

All meetings run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

We urge all Fairfax County, Virginia readers of CHQ to contact their County Board member to object to this draft ordinance and to urge its defeat. The general telephone number for Fairfax County is 703-324-7329 and you can determine which Supervisor represents you through this link.

Click this link to read more of Kenric Ward’s great reporting from the Virginia Bureau of Watchdog.org

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I think the board even considering it should be tossed out.

If I want 200 people over to my shack to watch July 4 Event at Daytona on 15 different television sets. As long as it is orderly and does not violate any local noise problems. What is the deal. This needs to be thrown out. Or put to the court.

This sounds like the guy here in my home town a few years ago was working the overnight shift and wanted to ban basically all gas powered lawn equipment so that he could sleep. Or the guy who wanted a noise law to prevent flapping kitchen fan door on a Chinese restaurant that his house backed up to. Oh by the way 2 years later it became a mute point. The town post office replaced the strip mall that the Chinese restaurant was in. That is one of those things that should have gone to civil court and worked out between two people. A lot of these things need to be brought to civil court and the issue resolved there. That is why those courts were created.