Los Angeles, Santa Clara Counties intensify War on Churches: LA terminates parking lot lease; Santa Clara fines church $15,000

By Michael Hernandez

LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella has terminated a 45-year parking lot lease between Los Angeles and Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur during a prolonged war against the church in what attorneys are calling “retaliatory action” after losing several court battles.

“Los Angeles County is retaliating against Grace Community Church for simply exercising their constitutionally protected right to hold church and challenging an unreasonable, unlawful health order,” said Jenna Ellis, the Special Counsel to the Thomas More Society and legal counsel for the church.

“We have a judicial system to ensure that the executive branch does not abuse its power and Grace Community Church has every right to be heard without fear of reprisal.

“The Democrats’ message to Americans is clear—if you don’t bow to every whim of tyranny, the government will come after you. The Church has peacefully held this lease for 45 years and the only reason the County is attempting eviction is because John MacArthur stood up to their unconstitutional power grab. This is harassment, abusive, and unconscionable.”

Grace Community Church has relied for parking on the county owned lots which they have leased for $8,301.41 per month according to Burbank media consultant Phil Cooke in his Aug. 31 blog.

“Whether or not you believe churches should be open or closed during the pandemic, this is a case that should be decided by the courts, not the whim of a (county) public works official,” writes Cooke. “It might be time to let these county officials know what people think of this kind of political retaliation.”

The blog goes on to give the telephone number of Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella: 626-458-7000 and his email: [email protected] as well as the email of Public Works Assistant Deputy Director James Sparks: [email protected].

LA County Public Works with its annual budget of $2.5 billion and a workforce of 4,000 employees is the largest public works agency in the United States providing services to 10 million county residents.

The 30-days’ notice was sent in an Aug. 28 dated letter sent to Grace Community Church that has been disobeying Governor Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus lockdown order which prohibits indoor church services. The letter references the three parking parcels that the church leases. Termination of the lease is set for Oct. 1.

Grace Community Church has been fighting the lockdown order in the courts since July when they released a statement explaining why they were no longer going to comply with orders forbidding in-person church meetings.

(Editor’s Note: To read Aug. 15 Citizens Journal story about the Los Angeles County battle with Grace Community Pastor John MacArthur and other county churches go to:

https://www.citizensjournal.us/los-angeles-church-wages-full-fledged-battle-against-county-state-wins-round-1-in-religious-freedom-court-case/. To read Aug. 26 Citizens Journal story on Pasadena’s threat to jail Harvest Rock Pastor Che Ahn, congregants:

https://www.citizensjournal.us/pasadena-threatens-to-jail-harvest-rock-pastor-che-ahn-and-congregation-over-indoor-worship-services/.)

“There is no pandemic,” said Pastor John MacArthur to start his Sunday, Aug. 30 sermon. I don’t want to offer myself as any kind of an expert, but a rather telling report came out this week, and, for the first time, we heard the truth. The CDC (Center for Disease Control)…said that, in truth, six percent of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to COVID.  (Some) 94 percent cannot. Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from COVID. There is no pandemic.

“We’ve all been suspicious of the fact that we’ve been meeting together now for weeks and weeks and weeks and we don’t know anyone who is ill. Nobody in our congregation has been to the hospital.

“We know there are reasons for this that have nothing to do with the virus. There’s another virus loose in the world and it’s the virus of deception and the one who is behind the virus of deception is the arch-deceiver: Satan himself. And it’s not a surprise to me, that in the midst of all this deception, the great effort that is going on is to shut down churches that preach the gospel.”

North Valley Baptist Church of Santa Clara fined $15,000

Meanwhile, Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams has issued a $5,000 fine for every time North Valley Baptist Church Pastor Jack Trieber holds an indoor church service. The church held two services on Aug. 23 and a mid-week Aug. 26 service. The total fines had reached $15,000 prior to this past Sunday (Aug. 30).

“I never thought I’d live in a day where you’d be fined for going to church,” Pastor Trieber told the congregation, which he has led since 1976. “I can’t believe I am hearing this in my America.”

North Valley Baptist Church, which is located on a six-acre property, has reduced the church’s 3,000-person capacity by more than half. Worshippers wear masks, do not shake hands, or hold hands in prayer. Santa Clara County acknowledged in its cease-and-desist letter that they had been sending agents into the church to spy on the congregation during worship services.

“You can’t have any law against assembling in God’s house,” said Pastor Trieber. “None. I know we have a Constitutional right to worship, but we have a higher power that we answer to. I have a biblical mandate. We have obeyed authority in this church. We’ve always obeyed authority. But when local authority begins to disregard this authority, we go with this book right here (the Bible).

“Gov. Newsom’s orders allow the church to feed, shelter, and provide social services, but the same people in the same building cannot worship. Non-religious services are acceptable, but religious serves are banned.

“People can be housed overnight, but cannot hold a short worship service, Bible study, or meet for prayer. People can receive counseling to find work but cannot be counseled on finding eternal life.”

Pastor Treiber told his congregation on Sunday morning (Aug. 30) that he would close down the church “for the safety of people” if he believed the country was facing a life-threatening pandemic.  

Last week, the Santa Clara County counsel’s office posed a cease-and-desist letter on the church’s door saying that North Valley Baptist violated the health order for holding indoor services. Governor Gavin Newsom issued his order prohibiting indoor church services on July 13 and gave full authority for counties to take enforcement actions.

“The same governor who encourages mass protests, bans all worship is now fining churches for their right to assemble and worship,” said Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver. “The same governor who says the church can meet for secular services, bans the church from having religious worship. This unconstitutional hostility against religious worship must end.”

“We’re going to have church,” Pastor Trieber said. “It’s essential.”

Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].


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VCsurfer
VCsurfer
2 months ago

LOL- now that is really funny, “Actual Christian.”

1. How is any of that “fascist?” If anything, it’s the antithesis.
2. You say you are an “Actual Christian,” but believe religion is “the scourge of mankind?” The scourge of mankind is actually the absence of faith and resultant moral relativism.

Actual Christian
Actual Christian
2 months ago

Who’s the fascist that what this rightie drivel? Jesus would care enough about his fellow citizens to wear a mask and follow the rules. Keep destroying you religion. It’s the scourge of mankind anyhow.