Freedom of assembly and speech
Although our constitution guarantees the right of peaceful assembly and the right of freedom of religion, it really does not matter to some local governments.
They can regulate who meets, where they meet and the times they meet.
A permit can be required for almost everything and can be easily denied by the government. Case in point.
A small group of people decided about three and a half years ago that they would meet on Sunday afternoons at a Wesley Methodist church-owned house on Minton Road.
In the autumn, we met outside at 4 p.m., played guitars and sang country-western songs and enjoyed a short religious message by a retired minister. We were told that we could not meet there, as it was not zoned for a church.
We moved to the fellowship hall at Wesley church and continued our weekly meetings, disturbing no one and refusing no one entry.
Later, we were told that we could again use the house on Minton Road for our afternoon services, and we continued there until the church decided to sell the property.
We renovated an industrial garage with four bays, putting in a restroom, sinks and a small stage, raised about six inches off the floor for the musicians.
We thought that we had a place to assemble and enjoy our music, sing our songs and hear our message.
No one complained about the lack of insulation, high ceilings and garage doors, nor did we worry about the lack of air conditioning. We were just happy to have our own place. Alas, it was not to be.
The city of West Melbourne decided that the garage was not a suitable place for us to assemble and enjoy our songs and message.
We are not loud and rowdy, we have no near residential neighbors and there are three churches on Meadowbrook Lane.
Why are we denied the right of peaceful assembly? Only your friendly West Melbourne government knows.
Richard C. Bradley