Riverside County, CA–A lawsuit was filed yesterday on behalf of Word Aflame Ministries by the law firms of Tyler & Bursch, LLP, Advocates for Faith & Freedom and National Center for Law & Policy against the City Manager of La Habra Heights, Fabiola Huerta and La Habra Heights resident Juan Garcia. The complaint lists several infringements including violations of free exercise, assembly, speech, equal protection, the Bane Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The Church’s congregation and weekly visitors are multi-racial and represent a cross-section of society that are seeking spiritual support, comfort, guidance and shelter from the Church’s ministry and its members.
Despite the great expense and sacrifice made by Word Aflame Ministries (the Church) to fully comply with all federal, state, county and city health order mandates by moving their Bible study and Sunday worship services outdoors, the Defendants have repeatedly and falsely accused the Church of violating COVID-19 health orders.
Based on the continuous complaints and relentless false allegations made by Defendants Juan Garcia and Fabiola Huerta, the Los Angeles County Health Department has visited the Church on several occasions. After an inspection of the Church facility, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health issued its report stating it was “in compliance with the Health Officer Order,” including social distancing protocols, mask wearing, and other health requirements.
Due to Juan Garcia’s additional and persistent complaints to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, they also visited the church numerous times during worship services and they, too, found no legal violations.
Juan Garcia also made and continues to make complaints based on false allegations to the City of La Habra Heights (the City). The City erroneously gave credence to Garcia’s false accusations and unlawfully joined him in conspiring to harass, fine, and cite the Church despite evidence that they are in full compliance with state and county health orders and the City’s Municipal Codes.
At one point, the City issued a demand letter to the Church demanding that they cease “noncritical activities such as bible study and prayer groups,” or face a “fine of $1,000 or six months in county jail, or both.” To date, the City has levied over $3,000 against the Church based on the actions of Fabiola Huerta and Juan Garcia.
Both Juan Garcia and Fabiola Huerta were spotted videotaping Church attendees, including children, during worship service and it is believed that they placed threatening handwritten signs on the front door of the church referencing guns and torture.
“It is unconscionable to think that public officials’ alleged fear over COVID-19 has been so overblown that a small church who is complying with all state and county health guidelines is considered a “nuisance” by city officials. The attack on churches under the guise of COVID-19 has gone too far, and for too long. This should be a wake-up call to people of faith,” said Robert Tyler, Partner at Tyler & Bursch, LLP.
Plaintiffs, Pastor Joe Garcia and Marie Garcia contend that Juan Garcia and Fabiola Huerta were, and still are engaged in conduct with the intent to cause the Church Plaintiffs extreme emotional distress, or at a minimum, with reckless disregard as to whether it would cause extreme emotional distress. Read lawsuit HERE.
Word Aflame Ministries, Pastor Joe Garcia and Marie Garcia are seeking relief against the Defendants Juan Garcia and Fabiola Garcia, and damages in an amount to be proven at trial.
Tyler & Bursch attorneys are available for additional comments and interviews only by contacting Matt Shupe at email, [email protected] or cell, 415-735-8491.
About Tyler & Bursch, LLP and Advocates for Faith & Freedom: With offices in Riverside County and Orange County, CA, the lawyers at Tyler & Bursch, LLP have served businesses and individuals throughout Southern California for over 20 years. In addition to their defense of Constitutional and Religious Liberties, their areas of practice include Corporate and Business, Labor and Employment, Real Estate and Land Use, Estate Planning, Asset Protection and Civil Litigation. www.tylerbursch.com Tyler & Bursch provides legal and financial support to the non-profit law firm, Advocates for Faith & Freedom. www.faith-freedom.com