Landlord Changes Church’s Lock To Prevent Pastor From Defying Lockdown
The landlord of a California church has changed the locks to the church building in order prevent its pastor from defying a coronavirus lockdown.
The church, Cross Culture Christian Center led by Pastor Jon Duncan, had vowed to continue services in spite of the lockdown. Speaking with Fox 40, Duncan said the services were “protected by the First Amendment and should be considered essential.”
However, on Palm Sunday the pastor and some of his members were met by several police officers when they arrived. They were unable to enter the completely shuttered church, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The building’s owner, the nearby Bethel Open Bible Church, had “changed the locks on the doors in response” to his threats to defy coronavirus restrictions, Lodi police Lt. Michael Manetti told the paper.
The officer said that during a “fairly cordial” discussion with the pastor, they also turned away more than a dozen cars that tried to pull in for Sunday service on a day when even Pope Francis livestreamed Mass from behind closed doors.
“We understand people’s desire to practice their faith,” Manetti told the LA paper. “It’s for everyone’s welfare. We have to protect the public.”
Duncan had no idea that the locks had been changed when he arrived for services, his attorney, Dean Broyles, told the LA Times.
“The landlord did not inform my client that they were going to lock them out of the premises,” Broyles said
He said he is also planning a federal civil rights lawsuit. “The right to peaceably assemble, the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech are unalienable rights found in the First Amendment,” he said. “Constitutional rights are not suspended by a virus.”
Pastor Michael Allison of Bethel Open Bible Church said they “don’t anticipate [Cross Culture Christian Center] re-entering our building.”
“When the public health officer issued an ‘Order Prohibiting Public Assembly,’ we immediately took action to lock the building so that it would not be available for any public assembly,” Allison told the paper.