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New Bible study group receives policy apology, 4 new believers


CRANSTON, R.I. (BP)–Police in Cranston, R.I., have apologized for visiting the home of Jeannine M. Costantino, the first member of a new Bible study group called Garden City Baptist Church, and for any subsequent misunderstandings involving the group’s civil rights.
On July 17, police investigated an alleged violation of city zoning and parking statutes following complaints from neighbors that Costantino was holding “some type of church sessions,” that too many cars were parked at the scene and that a four-day backyard Bible club was an unlicensed day-care center.
Additionally, church members also were prevented from visiting door-to-door to invite neighbors to the Bible study, under threat of violating a solicitation statute.
The new congregation is sponsored by North County Baptist Church, Smithfield, R.I., a 115-member congregation. Pat Galloway has been pastor for five years.
In a letter to Vincent P. McCarthy of New Milford, Conn., senior regional counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, Virginia Beach, Va., Cranston’s assistant city solicitor William F. Holt wrote, “On its face, the ordinance cited by members of the police department references [a] door-to-door salesman and certainly not individuals in pursuit of their religious beliefs. I can understand how the police department could interpret this ordinance in that manner and further would suggest that no ill will was intended toward the pastor,” Holt wrote in November.
Col. Vincent McAteer of the Cranston Police Department then called McCarthy to apologize for the incident. McCarthy subsequently wrote to pastor Galloway to report McAteer “asked that we communicate to you his apology for the misunderstanding and that he hopes you will not have any ill will towards the department. Colonel McAteer expressed his full support for your constitutional rights.”
Meanwhile, Garden City Baptist Church, in weekly Bible studies since last May, has grown from four to nine members. They recently completed a three-month “Experiencing God” study and have started the “Survival Kit For New Christians.”
Four people have professed faith in Jesus Christ as a result of the new work. “As a group of believers, we have prayed for God’s direction and are meeting on Sunday nights to watch a five-part movie about the end times,” said Frank Iafrate, the Bible study leader. “As a group, our focus is on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We give him all the praise and glory.”